Solution-What number of fish could person catch during each

Tragedy of the Commons Lab

Objective: To enable students to learn how a common resource can become depleted when that resource is not regulated in some way because people act from self-interest for short term gain.

• 1 paper bowl per group of 4 students
• 1 package of M&M’s
• 2 straws per person


1. Divide the class into groups of three students each.

2. Each group starts with 4 fish (M&M’s) per person in its bowl. Do not move the bowl; it must remain in the miIDle of the four students.

3. Try to catch as many “fish” as possible during each 20 second fishing season. Use two straws to catch the fish. Each student MUST catch one fish per season in order to stay alive and feed his or her family. If you do not catch a fish, your family has starved to death.

4. Each fish has a value of $5.00 perfish. You can sell or buy extra fish for $5.00 each.

5. After each fishing year your fish will “reproduce.” (ie. the teacher will replenish the fish after each year.

6. Enter the number of fish that each student caught each season in the following table.



Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

Year 4

Total Fish Harvested

Total Income (do not include the ones your family ate)






















Fish Eaten


Total Fish Harvested by the whole group

Total Income Earned (not including the food eaten by each family)

Analysis is on the next page.


1. Did anyone in your group take too many fish? Did you take more than one?
• All three of our group members took similar amount of fish. However, one of the member took a lot ( but not too much).

2. Did your strategy change during the game? Explain.
• Yes, since in the beginning, it was really hard to pick small objects by thin chopsticks, I tried to change my hand position to find the easiest and most effective position to hold.

3. What number of fish could each person catch during each round and still make a profit while not over-fishing?
• About three to five of fish per each person make a profit.

4. What are some natural resources that are also common resources?
• Air, water, wind, solar energy, trees and rocks.

5. What strategies could people adopt to use these resources more wisely and prevent the “tragedy of the commons”?
• Communication between users, partnership between users, governmental regulation/laws

6. What would happen if 3 fish were produced for ever 2 fish that were left in the bowl? How many fish would you need to leave so that everyone got the maximum harvest?

7. Other thoughts? Why is it difficult to not abuse a resource?

8. In two paragraphs compare the difference of The Lorax and The Truax. What does the logger say he is being

How is the goal of the Onceler (green hand person in the Lorax) different from the logger (I) in The Truax? Think about Tragedy of the Commons from the Onceler.


Verified Expert

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1. Tragedy of the common denotes a situation where person acts rationally and independently for each other’s interest. According to this theory all three of our group members took similar amount of fish. However, one of the member took a lot (but not too much). This is a common phenomenon where individual tries to have a little more self-interest. The person who has taken some more amount of fish was also conscious of the fact that he should not take more that may hamper other’s interest. Even I have taken one more fish than others (Ansari, Wijen, & Gray, 2013).

2. Yes, since in the beginning, it was really hard to pick small objects by thin chopsticks, I tried to change my hand position to find the easiest and most effective position to hold. I decided to change the strategy of the game when I was asked to use thin chopsticks to pick the small objects. In order to make the game successful, there was a need for change in gaming strategy.

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