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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Efficiency Gains from Fully Delineating Rights in an ITQ Fishery

  • Author(s): Costello, Christopher J
  • Deacon, Robert T
  • et al.

ITQ regulation relies on a decentralized market mechanism and a single price to allocate access to a stock of fish. The resulting allocation will not be fully efficient if the stock being allocated is heterogeneous or if there are potential gains from centralized coordination of harvesting effort. If stocks are heterogeneous in their density, location, or unit value during the season, harvesters governed by an ITQ policy will not be indifferent to when or where they exercise their quotas. Stocks that are relatively dense and/or close to port will be preferred to those less dense or more remote. Because an ITQ policy assigns the same opportunity cost of each unit harvested, individual harvesters have an incentive to compete for higher valued units and such competition may dissipate part of the fishery's potential rent. A similar phenomenon arises when stock densities vary in an unknown way over space or time, so harvesters must engage in costly search. Individual harvesters governed by an ITQ policy have no incentive to share information on stock locations, which can lead to redundant search effort. We demonstrate that both sources of inefficiency can be eliminated either by defining ITQ rights more precisely or by an agreement among harvesters to coordinate their effort. We develop models that illustrate these effects and identify the factors that determine their likely size. Anecdotal evidence on practices adopted by fishery cooperatives is presented to illustrate the practical relevance of the issues we raise.

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