The Tragedy of the Commoners: The Decline of the Customary Marine Tenure System of Tonga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The breakdown of traditional marine tenure systems and overexploitation of marine organisms as a result of rapid modernization, urbanization and population growth in the case of Tonga is outlined. The customary marine tenure system is described and the threats against the coral reefs are discussed. It is shown how accumulative strategies correlate with the move toward overexploitation. It is argued that biodiversity, ethnobiology and biodiversity conservation should increasingly serve as a focus of teaching research and community outreach programmes for a better understanding and appreciation of biodiversity and its role as a foundation for environmental sustainable development. The need for considering the possibility of exclusion under communal property regimes, rather than assuming that common property is the same as open access, is emphasized.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social and Economic Geography


  • Tonga, Kingdom of Tonga, Common properties, Aquaculture, Tragedy of the Commons
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-13
JournalSPC Traditional Marine Resource management and Knowledge Information Bulletin
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 2001
Publication categoryResearch