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Schools of Fishermen: A Theory of Information Sharing in Spatial Search

  • Lynham, John

Fishermen who compete for a resource in an open access setting generally do not share information amongst each other about where stocks are located. On the other hand, in fisheries where there are established property rights or fishing cooperatives, fishermen tend to share information with each other. Recent work in developing spatial models of fishermen behavior has generally ignored the effect that sharing information about where stocks are located can have. We develop a behavioral model of search amongst spatial resource harvesters that allows for varying degrees of information sharing. We demonstrate that informational cascades may lead to extremely inefficient spatial search by fishermen that do not share information and that this inefficiency may be persistent over time. We define a new parameter, information-dependent catchability, which captures the degree to which information sharing improves the efficiency of spatial search. We argue that institutions change the incentives to share information; information-dependent catchability will differ within a fishery depending on the specific management institutions adopted. This leads to theoretical predictions which depart from standard models but account for a wider range of field observations. In particular, we derive the conditions under which closing access to a fishery would have such a drastic impact on the incentives to share information (and hence, the efficiency of search) that total effort in the fishery will be unaffected by restricting access. We derive the equivalent conditions for steady state harvest and stock levels. Furthermore, we make an important distinction between Property Rights Rents and Information Sharing Rents (economic rents that can be attributed solely to changes in information-sharing). The shiroebi shrimp fishery in Shinminato, Japan provides an ideal natural experiment to test the impact of information sharing. Field observations from this fishery strongly accord with the predictions of the model presented in this paper.

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File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/21442
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Paper provided by American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association) in its series 2006 Annual meeting, July 23-26, Long Beach, CA with number 21442.

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Date of creation: 2006
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Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea06:21442
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  1. Sanchirico, James N. & Wilen, James E., 1999. "Bioeconomics of Spatial Exploitation in a Patchy Environment," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 129-150, March.
  2. Bikhchandani, Sushil & Hirshleifer, David & Welch, Ivo, 1992. "A Theory of Fads, Fashion, Custom, and Cultural Change in Informational Cascades," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 992-1026, October.
  3. Jeffrey Carpenter & Erika Seki, 2011. "Do Social Preferences Increase Productivity? Field Experimental Evidence From Fishermen In Toyama Bay," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 49(2), pages 612-630, 04.
  4. Seki, E. & Platteau, J.P., 1998. "Coordination and Pooling Arrangements in Japanese Coastal Fisheries," Papers 208, Notre-Dame de la Paix, Sciences Economiques et Sociales.
  5. H. Scott Gordon, 1954. "The Economic Theory of a Common-Property Resource: The Fishery," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 62, pages 124.
  6. Banerjee, Abhijit V, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817, August.
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