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New research by Xavier Basurto & colleagues this month in Science Advances suggests that Marine Protected Areas intensify competition & cooperation in local fishing communities with implications for resource governance & theories of collective action.

New research by Xavier Basurto and colleagues explores the influence of Marine Protected Areas on local communities along the coast of Baja. The "friendly rivalry" that emerges highlights the need to integrate prosocial and antisocial behavior into theories of collective action. Published earlier this month in Science Advances, the paper "Integrating simultaneous prosocial and antisocial behaviour into theories of collective action" is open access and can be downloaded here.

As stated in the abstract "Trust and cooperation constitute cornerstones of common-pool resource theory, showing that "prosocial" strategies among resource users can overcome collective action problems and lead to sustainable resource governance. Yet, antisocial behavior and especially the coexistence of prosocial and antisocial behaviors have received less attention. We broaden the analysis to include the effects of both "prosocial" and "antisocial" interactions."

Basing their study along the coast of Baja California, Mexico where the authors have worked for more than 15 years, Basurto and colleagues compare two MPA communities and two non-MPA communities and employ gaming experiments, interviews and a standardized survey to explore the effects of prosocial and antisocial behaviours. The MPA communities were found to have higher levels of both competition and collaboration.

A 4 min summary video highlights implications for marine protected areas and beyond: Marine protected areas intensify cooperation and competition among fishers.

Washington Post's coverage and interpretation of the research:


Basurto, Xavier, Esther Blanco, Mateja Nenadovic1 and Björn Vollan 2016. Integrating simultaneous prosocial and antisocial behavior into theories of collective action. Science Advances Vol. 2, no. 3, e1501220. DOI:10.1126/sciadv.1501220.