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Economics & Social Sciences Research Program

What are We Protecting? Fisher Behavior and the Unintended Consequences of Spatial Closures as a Fishery Management Tool

Economists Alan Haynie (Economics & Social Sciences Research (ESSR) program) and Joshua Abbott (Arizona State University) have a forthcoming publication in the journal Ecological Applications that examines the impacts of the red king crab savings area (RKCSA) on the Bering Sea flatfish fishery.

Specifically, the paper examines the winter rock sole and Pacific cod fishery in the years immediatedly following the creation of the RKCSA in 1995. Spatial closures like marine protected areas (MPAs) are prominent tools for ecosystem-based management in fisheries. However, the adaptive behavior of fishermen (the apex predator in the ecosystem) to MPAs may upset the balance of fishing impacts across species.

While ecosystem-based management (EBM) emphasizes the protection of all species in the environment, the weakest stock often dominates management attention. We use data before and after the implementation of the RKCSA to show how closures designed for red king crab protection spurred dramatic increases in Pacific halibut bycatch due to both direct displacement effects and indirect effects from adaptations in fishermen's targeting behavior. We identify aspects of the ecological and economic context of the fishery that contributed to these surprising behaviors, noting that many multispecies fisheries are likely to share these features.

Our results highlight the need to either anticipate the behavioral adaptations of fishermen across multiple species in reserve design, a form of implementation error, or to design management systems that are robust to these adaptations. Failure to do so may yield patterns of fishing effort and mortality that undermine the broader objectives of multispecies management and potentially alter ecosystems in profound ways.

By Alan Haynie

Catch Share Metrics for Fisheries

The NMFS Offices of Science and Technology and Sustainable Fisheries are developing a national, standardized database of performance indicators for catch share programs and, in the out-years, non-rationalized fisheries. The initial set of indicators (Tier 1) includes the budget performance measures developed by F/SF to satisfy a request by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for basic information on recently implemented catch share programs. The OMB performance indicators were discussed at the Assistant Regional Administrators for Sustainable Fisheries meeting over the summer and include: Annual Catch Limit not exceeded, bycatch reduced, percent utilization increased, and revenue per vessel increased.

Tier 1 indicators are currently being calculated for all catch share programs managed by each region in the United States and include: quota allocated to the catch share program, aggregate landings, discards in the catch share program, whether the Annual Catch Limit was exceeded, the number of entities holding shares, active fishing vessels, season length, number of trips, days at sea, aggregate revenue from both catch-share and non-catch-share fisheries, whether a share cap was in place, and the amount of any cost recovery fee paid by industry.

In response to tasking from Assistant Administrator Schwab in advance of other catch share program analyses, Tier 1 indicators were derived and reported to the Office of Science and Technology for the BSAI Crab Rationalization management program by AFSC staff in cooperation with the Alaska Regional Office, Restricted Access Management Division, as well as with staff from the Alaska Fisheries Information Network. Collaboration will continue on reporting of performance indicators for the remaining catch share programs in the second quarter, and annually thereafter.

In addition to the Tier 1 set of indicators, Tier 2 and 3 indicators were developed by a national science and technology working group of economists and other social scientists, reflecting increasing data and analytical requirements as beyond the simpler Tier 1 indicators.  Tier 2 and 3 indicators will be estimated and reported as feasible based upon developments in data collection and analysis.

By Ron Felthoven, Brian Garber-Yonts, and Jean Lee

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