Individual Transferable Quota’s in fishing: Part 1

As nations struggle with the over fishing of their resources, it is appropriate to look at economic means of stabilizing the death plunge in fish stocks worldwide. Some nations clearly not having learnt from the tragedy of the commons, or environmentalists and conservationists sounding ever more dire warnings, now seek to exploit other nations fish stocks.

But it is not all bad news, even if the good news is somewhat dated. Individual Transferable Quotas have been around for awhile now and New Zealand was one of the fist nations in the world along with Iceland to implement them.

I.T.Q.’s were implemented in New Zealand originally in 1986 (Dewees, 1998). It resulted from the overfishing of the known stock, changes in the New Zealand economic model away from Government subsidised industries to privatised ones with. A characteristic problem of fisheries as a commodity has been historically a tendency for users to compete for the resource, thus establishing a sort “must get what I can, before my competitor does” type approach, or otherwise known as “The tragedy of the Commons”. This is not a sustainable approach and depletes fisheries, as well as causing damage to the environment. In the long term – for the very opposite reasons that I.T.Q.’s are useful mechanisms – this mentality has failed economically significant booms that have been followed by equally significant busts.

The paper by Dewees concluded that the introduction of an I.T.Q system stopped or at least significantly slowed down the race for fish because the Total Allowable Catch (T.A.C.) would be more evenly distributed. It encouraged quota users to better manage their resource by giving them certainty of having a portion of the total amount.

Determining the quotas depends on what the yield of scallops from the fishing area is (Lock and Leslie, 2007). The two yields mentioned are important in calculating the Maximum Sustainable Yield, which determines the maximum yield that can be permitted without compromising the fishery. Without these, it is difficult to calculate, and thus poses a challenge determining how much a fishery may yield.

This may vary from year to year, depending on a range of factors such as human pressure through fishing and pollution as well as interaction between species. The yield determined from knowing this is called the Current Annual Yield and reflects the year by year fluctuations of the stock.

The Maximum Constant Yield is the maximum volume of biomass that can be harvested each year without depleting the stock, and is considered to have an acceptable level of risk. In order for this to work effectively it is set at level low enough to yearly fluctuations in stock and still be less than the volume of stock during periods of low abundance.

Are I.T.Q.’s perfect?

No. But nor is any system. Some of the problems seen in the use of I.T.Q.’s in New Zealand shall be explored in my next article.

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