Regulated open access and regulated restricted access fisheries

Methods of fisheries regulation have evolved considerably over the past century, particularly since the Law of the Sea negotiations enclosed a substantial portion of the world's most valuable fisheries. The enclosure that occurred as coastal nations extended their jurisdictions to 200 miles gave coastal nations the potential, not always immediately realized, to move beyond open access resource exploitation by creating well-defined property rights in capture fisheries. Open access conditions have repeatedly led to biological overexploitation and dissipation of economic rents. The first step away from these conditions has generally been toward regulated open access (ROA), under which biologically motivated regulations are imposed on fishermen, who are otherwise allowed to enter and exit at will. ROA has been demonstrated to be effective in managing biological productivity, but at the cost of increased distortions, such as extremely short seasons typically seen in so-called ‘derby fisheries.’ The response to these distortions has been the adoption of regulated restricted access (RRA), whereby regulators restrict various dimensions of effort in addition to season and area restrictions. RRA regimes have further constrained effort growth, to the extent that fishermen cannot easily substitute unrestricted for restricted inputs. With flexible fishing technologies, many regulators have been forced to chase effort expansion across unrestricted dimensions as fishermen sequentially respond to regulatory restrictions. In response, fisheries have begun to adopt institutions that create well-defined property rights. These rights-based fisheries tackle the cause of inefficiencies associated by perverse and distorted input expansion by granting fishermen secure harvesting rights to a portion of the sustainable harvest. These kinds of regulations give fishermen incentives to maximize the value of their rights, rather than competing wastefully over insecure access to the resource. This article discusses the broad patterns of evolution of fisheries institutions, with particular attention to the mechanisms and consequences of ROA and RRA conditions.

Keywords: Access rights, Open access, Property rights, Regulated open access, Regulated restricted access, Rent dissipation, Rights-based fisheries

Citation: Wilen, J. and M. Reimer. 2013. In: Elsevier. Oxford, UK.

Regulated open access and regulated restricted access fisheries

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