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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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  • Lynham, John, 2006. "Schools of Fishermen: A Theory of Information Sharing in Spatial Search," 2006 Annual meeting, July 23-26, Long Beach, CA 21442, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea06:21442

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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, April.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    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 124-124.
    6. Abhijit V. Banerjee, 1992. "A Simple Model of Herd Behavior," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 797-817.
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    Cited by:

    1. Keith Evans & Quinn Weninger, 2014. "Information Sharing and Cooperative Search in Fisheries," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 58(3), pages 353-372, July.
    2. Julio Peña Torres & Mabyr Valderrama, 2008. "Fishing Location decisions in the Chilean-Transzonal Jack Mackerel Fishery," ILADES-Georgetown University Working Papers inv217, Ilades-Georgetown University, Universidad Alberto Hurtado/School of Economics and Bussines.
    3. Deacon, Robert T & Costello, Christopher J, 2007. "Strategies for Enhancing Rent Capture in ITQ Fisheries," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt4104b329, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
    4. Costello, Christopher J & Deacon, Robert T, 2007. "The Efficiency Gains from Fully Delineating Rights in an ITQ Fishery," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt56n8x9qb, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.

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