Fisheries bioeconomics: why is it so widely misunderstood?
Many fisheries management systems, even when based on apparently sound science, have failed to prevent severe overfishing. And even when successful in this sense, such systems have frequently resulted in a large degree of excess fishing capacity. The reason for these failures can often be found in a lack of consideration of the economic incentives affecting fishermen. Specifically, when forced to compete for a fixed total annual catch quota (TAC), fishermen are motivated to fish at high intensity, and to expand the fishing power of their vessels. Individual fishing quotas (IFQs) are being increasingly used as a method of altering economic incentives in a desirable way. IFQ systems, however, can also suffer severe shortcomings, unless substantial fees are extracted for the exclusive right to exploit a publicly owned resource. When combined with appropriate fees, or royalties, IFQs can indeed result in sustainable, profitable fisheries. There still remains the fundamental question of risk management, but this is also now beginning to be addressed. Thus there is now a strong hope for the future success of marine fisheries, at least within 200-mile coastal zones.