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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Order in the Lake: Managing the Sustainability of the Lake Constance Fisheries, 1350-1900

Michael Zeheter

Environment and History 21 (2015): 597-629. doi: 10.3197/096734015X14414683716325

Around 1350 the authorities of the Lake Constance region began to regulate the local fisheries by issuing fishermen's ordinances and signing fisheries treaties with other principalities with the stated interest of protecting the fish stocks, which were considered a commons. The fishermen and their guilds were heavily involved in this process, since some of their practices - like the destruction of spawn and the catching of young fish - could have devastating consequences. The fishermen and their authorites decided regularly for more than four centuries to prioritise the long-term preservation of the fish stocks and not short-term profits to be made on the local fish markets. Thus, they avoided the disastrous outcome of a 'Tragedy of the Commons'.

KEYWORDS: Lake Constance, fisheries, guilds, commons, sustainability


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