Shark Activity and Congestion of the Surfing Commons

Published on
3. June 2019

Men in Grey Suits: Shark Activity and Congestion of the Surfing Commons

Franklin G. Mixon Jr, Chandini Sankaran


This study extends recent research on informal property rights at surf breaks by exploring the process through which nature, by establishing conditions conducive (or not) to the presence of sharks, shapes the baseline level of exploitation by surfers of the common-pool resource represented by surf breaks. Since 1980, there have been nine fatal shark attacks off the coast of California, and in all nine cases the great white shark was the offending species. Given this inherent danger, the presence of large sharks mitigates, at least to some degree, the tendency toward the ‘tragedy of the commons’ in the case of surf breaks. Using data on surf break congestion, surf break quality, shark activity, and other key variables from 144 surf breaks in California, empirical results from OLS and ordered probit models presented in this study indicate that surf breaks in California that are associated with the highest levels of shark activity tend to be less congested, perhaps by as much as 28%, than their counterparts that are visited less often by sharks.

Sustainability 2019, 11(11), 3114, DOI 10.3390/su11113114


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