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Can a novel management plan for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab fisheries succeed?


  • Fina, Mark


Since their inception, Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) crab fisheries have attracted participants willing to undertake great financial and personal risks to participate in these high valued fisheries. Although entry to the fisheries is limited, excess capital and overcapacity, together with stock declines, have resulted in a race for fish. The shortest season is in the Bristol Bay red king crab fishery, which has been prosecuted for less than one week in recent years. Efforts of managers to protect declining stocks by reducing allowable catch have increased the economic stress on participants and communities that depend on these fisheries and increased pressure on participants to take greater risks. For several years, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council worked with participants to address these problems in the crab fisheries through series of working groups and management measures. In 2001, Congress stepped in, directing the Council to assess various rationalization programs for the fisheries, including individual fishing quotas (IFQs), processor shares, cooperatives, and quotas held by communities. The outcome of the Council process is a new and unique management program selected by a unanimous vote of the North Pacific Council. The program reflects the Council's desire to accommodate the interests of several groups dependent on these fisheries-vessel owners, processors, captains and crew, and communities. Under the program, harvest quota shares (QS) will be issued to vessel owners and captains. Processors will be issued processing quota shares. Under these allocations, 90 percent of harvest quota shares are designated for delivery to holders of processing quota shares. Community interests are protected by a requirement that a certain portion of the catch be landed and processed in designated regions. An arbitration program is included to resolve price disputes, which could arise because of the constraints on markets created by the dual share allocations. The result of the Council's action is one of the most complex fishery management programs to date. The attempt to satisfy many interests creates significant hurdles that must be overcome for the program to succeed economically and environmentally. This paper describes key dimensions of the proposed crab fishery management program and identifies the most substantial hurdles that the program must overcome for the Council to judge it a successful management program for the fisheries. First, managers will be challenged by program implementation. Implementation will require initial allocations of harvesting shares to vessel owners and captains and processing shares to processors. Most shares will be regionally designated based on the participant's landings history. Second, managers will face the challenge of protecting stocks as the incentives to high grade increase in the share-based fishery. Third, the markets for the harvest shares, captains shares, and processing shares must develop in a manner that facilitates coordination of harvesting and processing activity required by the share system and the regional landing and processing requirements. Lastly, market opportunities for harvest landings will be constrained by the requirement that deliveries be made to a processing share holder in a designated region. For the program to be considered a success, price formation in the market for landings must be perceived as fair. Each of these issues is described in a manner that provides the reader with a perspective of the institutional challenges faced by a program that attempts to address the concerns of several different interests. In addition, characteristics of the fisheries that contribute to the potential to overcome these obstacles are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Fina, Mark, 2003. "Can a novel management plan for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab fisheries succeed?," 2003 Annual meeting, July 27-30, Montreal, Canada 22255, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea03:22255

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Parzival Copes, 1986. "A Critical Review of the Individual Quota as a Device in Fisheries Management," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 62(3), pages 278-291.
    2. Criddle, Keith R. & Macinko, Seth, 2000. "A requiem for the IFQ in US fisheries?," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 461-469, November.
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