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Reforming Fisheries: Lessons from a Self-Selected Cooperative

Robert T. Deacon, Dominic Parker and Christopher Costello

Journal of Law and Economics, 2013, vol. 56, issue 1, 83 - 125

Abstract: We analyze a policy experiment in an Alaskan commercial fishery that assigned a portion of an overall catch quota to a voluntary co-op, with the remainder exploited competitively by those choosing to fish independently. Unlike the individual quota system advocated by many economists, the policy encouraged coordinated fishing and did not require a detailed assignment of rights. We model the decision to join and behavior under cooperative and independent fishing. The data confirm our key predictions: the co-op attracted the least skilled fishermen, consolidated and coordinated effort among its most efficient members, and provided shared infrastructure. We estimate that resulting gains in rent were at least 33 percent. Some independents were disadvantaged by the co-op's formation, however, which prompted them to oppose it in court. We analyze the source of their disadvantage and provide guidance for designing fishery reform that leads to Pareto improvements, enabling reform without losers.

Date: 2013
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