Incentive-Based Approaches to Sustainable Fisheries

(…) Evidence from more than a dozen ‘natural experiments’ of commercial, developed fisheries supports our conclusion — incentive-based approaches that better specify individual and group harvesting rights, and/or territorial rights and also price ecosystem services promote both economic and ecological sustainability.

Recently we found a very valuable fisheries paper on the demonstrated benefits of property rights. This is an excellent reference on the failures of input-based management schemes and the successes of incentives-based schemes. If you wish to know more, using the extensive references and the citing papers, you can go about as deep as you wish into case studies covering most commercial fisheries.

The paper was written by a team affiliated with the Australian National University, and published in Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 2006, 63:(3) 699-710, 10.1139/f05-247. Here are some excerpts specific to property rights that are relevant to our experience in Australia, Canada and New Zealand:

(…) Evidence exists that individual harvesting rights can promote collective action in shellfish, demersal and pelagic fisheries (Shotton 2001). In the New Zealand east-coast rock lobster fishery, for example, the introduction of individual harvesting rights prompted commercial stakeholders to initiate a locally focused fishing strategy. The industry successfully requested the regulator to lower the commercial catch and to restrict harvesting to a shorter winter period to make widespread illegal fishing easier to detect (Breen and Kendrick 1997). These and other fisher-initiated management measures have resulted in a dramatic stock recovery and substantially higher quota values (Leal et al. 2005).

(…) In the Tasmanian abalone fishery, individual quota-holders with direct involvement in advising the regulator successfully lobbied for large reductions in the total catch in the late 1980s. This allowed the stock to rebuild and the quota-holders were the principal beneficiaries of subsequent increases in the total harvest (Tasmanian Abalone Council 2003). The successful rebuilding of the Icelandic herring stocks, through cuts in the TAC, were also strongly supported by industry because fishers wanted to protect the asset value of their harvesting rights (Hannesson 1996).

(…) it is not surprising that holders of such rights will be prepared to invest their time and effort to protect their flow of benefits from fishing. This may take the form of funding for more on-board and dockside surveillance, increased research to improve the quality of scientific advice, and greater participation in management decision-making. For example, in the BC sablefish fishery — managed by individual harvesting rights since 1990 — fishers initiated and funded research on trap escape rings that dramatically reduced juvenile capture and mortality. After individual harvesting rights were introduced in BC’s halibut fishery, harvesters (through their industry association) have set up and pay for dockside monitoring that tags every fish (Grafton et al. 2000). Similarly in the BC groundfish trawl fishery, also managed by individual harvesting rights, fishers are strong supporters of science and have contributed millions of dollars to research (Rice 2003). Elsewhere, such as in New Zealand’s fisheries — managed by individual harvesting rights since 1986 — fishers, through their associations, are important financial contributors to management and are also active participants in some fisheries research (Lydon and Langley 2003).