World Bank fishery-development project reports offer a window into the intellectual history of the tragedy of the commons. This article focuses on the evolution of management priorities and the role of access restrictions between the first World Bank fishery project in 1963 and key policy briefs in the mid-1990s. Early projects reflect little awareness on the part of the World Bank of open-access problems or over-fishing, but demonstrate that some national agencies were engaged in active management and considered equity to be central concern. By the mid-1990s, a contemporary, economic understanding of commons problems and solutions had emerged, which forced a reinterpretation of the status of previous fishery projects and of the value of various management approaches. This evolution parallels changes in World Bank priorities and informs the dynamic between the World Bank, national institutions, and resource users.
Keywords: Tragedy of the commons, World Bank, fisheries management, equity
Jel Code: O13, Q22