We conduct a framed field experiment in Indonesian fishing communities, with an eye towards evaluating alternative decision-making processes for setting extraction restrictions to preserve coral reef fisheries in the absence of stringent monitoring and enforcement. We explore whether the individual extraction decision varies according to three non-binding recommended extraction levels originating from (1) a democratic process, (2) a group leader or (3) an external source. For the sample as a whole, we find a strong effect of the external treatment, with a weaker effect of the democratic treatment and no effect of the leadership treatment. Closer inspection reveals that the results are driven by one of the three sites where the experiment was conducted – that having the highest levels of ethnic and religious diversity. There we find that democratic decision-making as well as information originating from outside the community reduces the extraction level, a result that is robust to regressions controlling for individual and community attributes. The absence of effects in two of the three sites suggests that a non-binding recommendation may often be insufficient in promoting the cooperative behavior that underpins contemporary approaches to managing coral reefs.


Gallier, Carlo
Langbein, Jörg
Vance, Colin


Framed field experiment, common-pool resource, territorial use rights, compliance