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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Overharvesting the traditional fishery with a captured regulator


Rent dissipation in open access fisheries is a well studied problem (Gordon 1954; Homans and Wilen 1997). Regulation is seen as a possibly remedy to the externality of entry, which eventually leads to zero profits and depressed stocks. Despite regulation, drastic declines have occurred in many regulated fisheries worldwide, prompting a discussion of economic, biological, and environmental phenomena that may lead to declines. We explore one case when a regulator permits overfishing in the context of a traditional fishery model. Influenced by industry to reduce effort restrictions, regulators often rely on gear,season length, and other efficiency restrictions to achieve management goals. Under standard assumptions we find that when the regulator is "captured" by the members of the industry, he unambiguously allows overfishing by reaching a lower stock and higher effort than is socially optimal. This steady state has zero rents, but a higher stock and higher effort than the open access steady state.

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