The Angler in the Environment: Social, Economic, Biological, and Ethical Dimensions

A Property Rights-Based View on Management of Inland Recreational Fisheries: Contrasting Common and Public Fishing Rights Regimes in Germany and the United States

Katrin Daedlow, T. Douglas Beard, Jr., and Robert Arlinghaus


Abstract .—In this paper, we describe and contrast the features of common and public fishing rights regimes in inland recreational fisheries management, using Germany as an example of a common property rights regime and the United States as an example of a public property rights regime. The German case is further distinguished into a common property rights regime at the regional level in “East Germany” (conducted by angler associations) and at the local level in “West Germany” (conducted by angling clubs). Comparisons are done using established concepts from propertyrights theory and common-pool resource literature followed by a discussion of strength and weaknesses of sustainable resource management for the different property-rights regimes examined. The strengths of common property rights regimes, particularly if on a small scale such as in West Germany, include good possibilities for controlling angling effort, fostering traditional ecological knowledge, and developing emotional attachments to local fisheries. Moreover, the high level of anglers’ involvement in local decision making facilitates intensive communication among anglers and between anglers and managers, which may result in timely conflict resolution, commitment to rules, and peer pressure towards rule compliance. Strengths of public property rights regimes for inland recreational fisheries, as in the United States, include a high professional standard for conducting monitoring and stock assessment activities along with the ability to develop a landscape perspective for recreational fisheries management. This facilitates scale matching to solve problems based on science-based planning of regulations and management intervention, which may better avoid the pitfalls of “one-size-fits-all” policies. Irrespective of the governance system in place, a risk of pronounced rivalry among users for access to common-pool resources, such as fish stocks within defined boundaries of either state, angler association, or angling club waters, remains. This highlights the need for continued enforcement of rules and regulations along with continued communication with stakeholders. This is particularly challenging in large-scale management systems, as in East Germany and the United States. Our paper forms a basis for further research on recreational fisheries governance to identify suitable property-rights regimes for specific cultural, social, and ecological settings.