- Explores and develops market-based solutions.
The Gulf of Mexico commercial reef fishery is a success story for ending overfishing, increasing value by 80% and slashing discards by 70%. The fishery was transformed through catch share management combining conservation incentives with economic viability. But sea turtles captured in the fishery are in decline, and new rules may not save them even as they reduce catch share benefits. EDF proposes to work with the reef fish fleet to create the world’s first market-based model for improving sea turtle conservation while increasing the fishery’s value.
Sea turtles are vital to productive marine ecosystems. Unfortunately, today’s sea turtle bycatch management typically focused on rules like fishing closures and gear restrictions often don’t meet conservation goals and are very expensive to implement – sometimes forcing entire fishing fleets off the water.
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is exploring alternative management focused on finding low cost ways for fishermen to avoid sea turtles while allowing vessels to continue to work and provide economic benefits to coastal communities. Our goal is to find a solution that will allow the industry to reap important economic benefits while reducing risk to turtles.
EDF is currently working with academics, government, environmentalists and the fishing industry to explore new market-based conservation ideas, analyze implications of management changes, and build partnerships.
June 1, 2012
Over the past six months, EDF has been collaborating with colleagues and partners in government and industry, and with academic researchers, to develop a bioeconomic model comparing how the fishing industry performs under status quo versus a proposed incentive-based “transferable allowances” system for sea turtle interactions. The model replicates the complex ecosystem and the multispecies reef fish fishery (including sea turtle mortality), and introduces a component of fishermen’s behavior. The results are expected to quantify benefits to both fishermen and society as fishermen accept accountability for their bycatch and strive to avoid it.
The research is expected to wrap up in the next few months, and some preliminary highlights are emerging. It appears that under a system of transferable allowances and individual incentives to avoid turtles, the costs of reducing sea turtle mortality may be small, since tailoring their fishing locations and techniques are low cost options already available to fishermen. Under today’s system, fishermen have no incentives to employ such techniques. This provides strong evidence that incentive-based solutions can outperform traditional regulations.
Once completed, the research will be used in outreach to help government and stakeholders develop and implement new programs that save more turtles than today’s systems and work in ways that work with, not against, industry’s innovative capacity. Solid academic research helps establish the public policy case for incentive-based reforms that better serve the goals of society established under federal fisheries and endangered species laws than today’s regulations.
November 30, 2012
Thanks to support from the Alex C. Walker Foundation, EDF worked with researchers at Iowa State University, in collaboration with Gulf Fishermen’s Association and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), to develop a bioeconomic model comparing how the fishing industry performs under status quo versus a proposed market-based system of “transferable allowances” for sea turtle interactions. The model replicates the complex ecosystem and the multispecies reef fish fishery operating under catch shares, and introduces a component of fishermen’s behavior when faced with choices on-the water. The results explore benefits to both fishermen and society as fishermen accept accountability for their bycatch and strive to avoid it.
The research is complete and has been submitted to The Journal of Environmental Economics and Management for publication in 2013. The report can be found at http://www.econ.iastate.edu/research/working-papers/p15320. Several highlights include:
• A system of transferable allowances can provide on-going incentives to avoid costly bycatch. Over time, fishermen will innovate new ways to fish with less sea turtle mortality.
• Trading among fishermen allows them to match their landings with both target-fish quotas and transferable allowances for turtles at the lowest cost.
• Success using a system of transferable allowances will require at-sea monitoring. It is encouraging that the longline fleet could meet this need with relatively low-cost camera technology.
• Reef fish fishermen, already accustomed to catch shares management for target fish, know how to use modern technology to facilitate trading.
The research will be used in outreach to help government and stakeholders develop and implement new programs that save more turtles than today’s systems and work in ways that work with, not against, industry’s innovative capacity. Solid academic research helps establish the public policy case for incentive-based reforms that better serve the goals of society established under federal fisheries and endangered species laws than today’s regulations.
Under typical command-and-control sea turtle rules, fishermen have no incentive to avoid turtles. They fail to solve the bycatch problem and drive down value and jeopardize catch share benefits. EDF seeks to replace today’s command-and-control rules with a market-based strategy to reduce the Gulf reef fish longline fleet’s interactions with turtles and increase its value. Market incentives are created by allocating transferable turtle allowances to individual fishermen, rewarding those who avoid turtles with increased opportunities to catch fish.
EDF’s proposal has economic significance in the US and beyond as it introduces market solutions where they are not now used to solve problems. While sea turtles are protected under US law, their numbers continue to decline as regulations pit conservation against economics, rather than help to achieve both. Many consider markets as inappropriate to save turtles as they are perceived as “priceless.” EDF will introduce markets for tradable sea turtle allowances in fisheries (based on federal turtle interaction limits) to show how value can drive conservation as economic activity grows.
(Check sent: 11/25/2011)
(Check sent: 9/13/2012)