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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Spatial and Strategic Aspects of Fisheries Bycatch

  • Author(s): Abbott, Joshua K.
  • et al.

Much of the existing literature on fisheries bycatch has focused on the technological aspects of hycatch control. By contrast, there has been precious little consideration of the role of incentives in fostering or hindering bycatch avoidance and even less thought to the incentive structures found in many real-world fisheries.

This thesis addresses this gap by developing analytical and empirical models for a particular case study: the flatfish fisheries of the Eastern Bering Sea. These fisheries are managed under a system of multiple common pool quotas on bycatch and target species enforced by quota-triggered closures. We develop a game theoretic model to explain how this system fosters suboptimal bycatch avoidance behavior due to fishermen's inability to fully capture the benefits of bycatch avoidance. We derive the bycatch penalty that aligns private incentives with the rent-maximizing solution and find, surprisingly, that this penalty must increase with improvements in the bycatch efficiency of the harvesting technology.

We then develop an empirical discrete choice model of fishing location choice at a fine level of spatial and temporal resolution in order to reveal the implicit cost of bycatch to fishermen. We uncover substantial avoidance in the waning moments of the season but little otherwise. This avoidance is driven by a number of theoretically important factors on the fishing grounds. Even at its greatest, the implicit cost attached to bycatch is well below its value to the entire fleet. We also find substantial evidence that the common property quota system fosters excessive inertia in the movements of vessels over the fishing grounds.

Finally, we combine several modeling approaches to weigh the success of a voluntary program of information sharing and hycatch avoidance. The presence of data both before and after the program's inception and the initial nonparticipation of one cohort of vessels make our problem amenable to several variants of the difference-in-differences approach. Ultimately we find no basis for a positive impact of the voluntary program upon either bycatch outcomes or the implicit cost of bycatch to participating fishermen. We close by considering a number of hypotheses for the apparent failure of the cooperative program.

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