Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8276
Title: The effect of rights-based fisheries management on risk-taking and fishing safety
Author: Lisa Pfeiffer, Trevor Gratz
Publication Year: 2016
Journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
DOI: doi: 10.1073/pnas.1509456113
Keywords: catch shares, occupational safety, rights-based fisheries management, risk, sustainable fisheries,
Abstract:

Commercial fishing is a dangerous occupation despite decades of regulatory initiatives
aimed at making it safer. We posit that rights-based fisheries management (the individual
allocation of fishing quota to vessels or fishing entities, also called catch shares) can
improve safety by solving many of the problems associated with the competitive “race to
fish” experienced in fisheries around the world. The competitive nature of such fisheries
results in risky behavior such as fishing in poor weather, overloading vessels with fishing
gear, and neglecting maintenance. While not necessarily intended to address safety issues,
catch shares eliminate many of the economic incentives to fish as rapidly as possible.
We develop a dataset and methods to empirically evaluate the effects of the adoption of
catch shares management on a particularly risky type of behavior: the propensity to fish
in stormy weather. After catch shares was implemented in an economically important U.S.
West Coast fishery, a fisherman’s probability of taking a fishing trip in high wind conditions
decreased by 82 percent, compared to only 31 percent in the former “race to fish” fishery.
Overall, catch shares caused the average annual rate of fishing on high wind days to decrease
by 79 percent. This is evidence that institutional changes can significantly reduce
individual, voluntary risk exposure and result in safer fisheries.

Description:

Commercial fishing is a dangerous occupation despite decades of regulatory initiatives aimed
at making it safer. We posit that the individual allocation of fishing quota (rights-based management)
can improve safety by solving many of the problems associated with the competitive
“race to fish”, which manifest themselves in risky behavior such as fishing in poor weather
or overloading vessels. We present a novel approach to evaluation: estimating the change in
the propensity to start a fishing trip in poor weather conditions as a result of the management
change. We chronicle a revolution in risk-taking behavior by fishermen (a 79 percent decrease
in the annual average rate of fishing on high wind days) that is due to the change in economic
incentives provided by rights-based management.

Full Text URL: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/02/09/1509456113.full.pdf
Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources
Foci: Describe the interaction between human activities, particularly harvest of marine resources, and ecosystem function.
Assess ecosystem status and trends.