Last Saturday, the Livorno coast guard in Western Tuscany seized 37 beach chairs, 30 umbrellas, a child’s cot and assorted beach towels. The offenders were guilty of beach-hogging and fined €200.
Because a beach-hogger is behaving like anyone who abuses a shared resource, let’s take a look.
Assume that the night before a day at the beach, you reserve a spot by leaving your equipment in a prime position on the sand. In certain European seaside communities, unattended beach paraphernalia is illegal during the early morning hours.
The stories include a group of middle-aged tourists that were fined €1000 in 2007. The reason? At an Italian resort, they left 10 towels on the beach before 6 am. Had they done the same thing today in Spain’s Costa del Sol, the fine would have been €30. But they still would have had the hassle of reclaiming their belongings.
Our Bottom Line: The Tragedy of the Commons
Because a beach is a shared resource, we tend to mistreat it. Called the tragedy of the commons, cows are allowed to overgraze a shared meadow, we overfish the ocean and factory owners pollute the air.
Similarly, at the seaside, beachgoers are creating the tragedy of the commons when they reserve a good spot with their equipment. And, they too are harming third parties with the negative externalities they create.
So, at the seaside when you ponder the cause and effect of overfishing, do also think about beach-hogging.
My sources and more: Always a good source for a quirky tale, Quartz had the link that introduced me to the “beach police” which led me to similar stories here and here. Please note that I slightly edited the title of this post after it was published.