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Free Content Why fisheries management fails: treating symptoms rather than the cause

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Most fisheries management controls fishing mortality directly with top-down measures like time and area closures and gear restrictions. Decisions about these measures take place in adversarial, politically charged arenas. Scientists criticize conventional methods, mostly arguing for more draconian applications of the same tools. Economists also criticize them, but because they believe such methods focus on the symptom rather than the cause of problems. From the perspective of economists, the race to fish, the drive to increase fishing power, and the perversion of the politics of the management process are all driven by the insecurity of access faced by fishermen under most systems. Economists believe that fishermen's incentives are distorted by insecure harvest privileges, leading them to compete wastefully with each other and with managers for fish. Alternatives they recommend include "rights-based" harvest privileges. Although the shortcomings of these institutions have been argued about for over two decades, enough evidence has accumulated for a focus on consequences rather than speculation. Virtually all such experience shows that rights-based management institutions alter incentives in ways favorable to conservation and stewardship. An important inducement for behavioral changes is the wealth that is capitalized into the values of permits in rights-based systems.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-05-01

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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