Allocation of fishery harvests under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act : principles and practice
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Allocation of fishery harvests under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act : principles and practice

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  • Description:
    "Under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), a fishery management plan (FMP) may restrict harvest below the level that would occur in the absence of active management. In such a case, the allocation or the distribution of fishing privileges among identifiable, discrete user groups or individuals becomes an important consideration in the development of the plan. Allocation is at the heart of recent management actions such as the creation of catch shares, the imposition of restrictions on certain types of gear, and the consideration of how harvest should be distributed between different sectors of a fishery. In particular, allocation is an active policy issue when limited harvests must be divided between commercial and recreational fishing sectors. This technical memorandum focuses on the latter case, although the general descriptions of how allocation can be analyzed systematically apply to any of the cases mentioned. The MSA addresses allocation by setting certain standards that a FMP must meet. These standards highlight two general criteria: that the plan considers efficiency in making the allocation and that the allocation is fair and equitable. These two criteria draw on very different aspects of social science. While economics provides a precise technical framework for analyzing the efficiency of the allocation of fishery harvest or any other resource, a similarly precise framework does not exist to answer the question of whether an allocation is fair. Nevertheless, understanding the context in which fairness can be considered is important, so we discuss how efficiency and fairness can be analyzed in principle. While the analysis of efficiency and fairness is straightforward in theory, it is difficult in practice. We document the allocation of harvest limits between commercial and recreational sectors as practiced by the fishery management councils that operate under the MSA. More than three-fourths of the FMPs promulgated by the councils have no relevant allocation decisions because both commercial and recreational do not play a significant role in the fishery or are not actively managed by the plan. For example, of the New England Fishery Management Council's eight plans, seven do not have a significant recreational fishery; thus allocation between commercial and recreational sectors is not (at present) an important issue for those plans. Similarly, the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council has no FMPs that actively manage a recreational sector. We do not consider these fisheries in this memorandum, nor do we consider plans that have a significant recreational sector but do not have (at this time) what we have defined as an allocation for that sector. Instead we focus on the 11 plans that have an active recreational sector and have allocated allowable harvest between commercial and recreational sectors. For these plans, we document the council decisions that created allocations between commercial and recreational sectors in the fishery, and review the analyses that have been conducted to support the council's decision-making process. Finally, we briefly discuss the management objectives that govern the FMPs covered here. These objectives provide a context within which allocation and other management decisions are made. This technical memorandum offers no recommendations regarding the practice of making an allocation decision under the MSA or analyzing such a decision. Instead, our discussion of the principles of efficiency and fairness, as well as the many other documents and articles that have similar discussions, can be viewed as resources for future considerations of fishery harvest allocations. Similarly, the compilation of FMP allocations and analyses is a useful documentation of past and current practices, which can provide a basis for assessing the desirability of any potential changes in these practices or the need for broader data gathering or research to support future decisions."--Executive summary.
  • Content Notes:
    Mark L. Plummer, Wendy Morrison, and Erin Steiner.

    "February 2012."

    Also available online in PDF format.

    Includes bibliographical references (pages 43-47).

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