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The Political Economy of Fishery Reform


  • Corbett A. Grainger

    () (Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706)

  • Dominic P. Parker

    () (Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin 53706)


Despite compelling evidence that property rights–based management can improve the economic and ecological performance of fisheries, reform proposals are often met with political opposition. Moreover, the opposition sometimes comes from incumbent fishermen and fishing communities that would ostensibly gain the most from rent-enhancing reforms. We flesh out this puzzle by describing the political economy of past and present institutional changes in North America such as bans on fish traps, limited-entry regulations, and individual transferable quotas (ITQs). Our review identifies patterns of distributional concerns surrounding property rights; many of the same groups that opposed limits on entry and fish traps also oppose ITQs. We provide examples of how political opposition to ITQs is mollified by modifications in program design, although these design compromises may have efficiency costs. We conclude by pointing to the need for more research on equity-efficiency trade-offs and for greater attention to fishermen heterogeneity in economic analysis.

Suggested Citation

  • Corbett A. Grainger & Dominic P. Parker, 2013. "The Political Economy of Fishery Reform," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 5(1), pages 369-386, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:anr:reseco:v:5:y:2013:p:369-386

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    Cited by:

    1. Zhou, Rong & Segerson, Kathleen, 2014. "Individual vs. Collective Quotas in Fisheries Management: Efficiency and Distributional Impacts," 2014 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2014, Minneapolis, Minnesota 170601, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    2. repec:ucp:jaerec:doi:10.1086/695612 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Rong Zhou & Kathleen Segerson, 2016. "Individual vs. Collective Approaches to Fisheries Management," Marine Resource Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages 165-192.
    4. repec:eee:cysrev:v:91:y:2018:i:c:p:55-65 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Sturla Furunes Kvamsdal & Diwakar Poudel & Leif Kristoffer Sandal, 2016. "Harvesting in a Fishery with Stochastic Growth and a Mean-Reverting Price," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 63(3), pages 643-663, March.
    6. Christopher Costello & Corbett A. Grainger, 2018. "Property Rights, Regulatory Capture, and Exploitation of Natural Resources," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(2), pages 441-479.
    7. repec:kap:enreec:v:70:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s10640-017-0122-y is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    political economy; fisheries; property rights; individual transferable quotas; ITQs; distributional effects;

    JEL classification:

    • Q22 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Fishery
    • Q28 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Government Policy
    • P48 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Political Economy; Legal Institutions; Property Rights; Natural Resources; Energy; Environment; Regional Studies


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