Panel Paper: Learning to Share the Fish: A Comparative Case Study of Market-Based U.S. Fisheries Management

Thursday, November 8, 2012 : 1:15 PM
Chesapeake (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Keeley Kent, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington

Common-pool resources (CPR) have long been a public policy issue. The problems of subtractability and low excludability have led to overexploitation of CPRs under many different governance structures. Fisheries are a poster-child for CPR overexploitation and have had a gamut of public policy applications to address these characteristics. The overwhelming failure of the traditional command-and-control policy and instrument approaches to prevent and reverse problems such as overfishing and overcapitalization in fisheries management has demanded a course correction to protect the productivity and sustainability of the resource, the industry, and the culture built around it. Market-based mechanisms are a class of policy innovations continually gaining momentum in environmental policy and are being increasingly applied to fisheries management as catch shares. The use of market-based mechanisms to address a variety of fisheries policy problems such as overfishing, overcapitalization, and social equity issues is a major policy and policy instrument change that is lauded with successes both domestically and internationally. This policy instrument has been criticized though for both its intended and unintended consequences that often iron out into controversies about the trade-offs between economic efficiency and social equity.

This project traces the theoretical evolution of innovation in the use of market-based mechanisms to more effectively reach policy objectives over time. The purpose of this research project is to examine both the process and outcome of learning in the design and use of catch share programs as a federal fisheries management policy instrument. The process analysis draws out the ways in which learning may be occurring, with an emphasis on drivers of the diffusion of knowledge and experience both to and from the central policymaking bodies in fisheries, the Regional Councils. The learning outcome analysis examines the design elements of catch share programs as variables for how catch share paradigms are adapted to specific problems or policy objectives. This work uses a comparative case study approach examining four distinct catch share programs that vary temporally from the first implementation to one of the most recent. The programs are: the Surf Clam & Ocean Quahog IFQ, the Halibut & Sablefish ITQ, Bering Sea King & Tanner Crab Rationalization, and New England Multispecies Sectors program. Case selection along a temporal range allows this research to document and examine the progression of catch share program application in federal fisheries.

The significance of this project includes the unique policy structure of fisheries management that has put the development and innovation of this tool in the hands of the Regional Councils that represent partnerships between resource managers, NGOs, academics, and industry participants. Additionally, this project is a comprehensive application of the theory of learning to fisheries management. Ultimately, this research aims to provide useful and relevant information on the role of learning in applying market-based mechanisms as a policy prescription in fisheries management and to determine potential improvements to the process to augment the national dialogue on using catch shares to achieve both national and fishery-specific objectives.