Estimating efficiency gains from improved management


Originally, I intended to write something about teaching. Then, I had the idea to report from the IIFET conference. Then again, I thought I could write something about my own work. Upon reflection and closer inspection of the previous blog entries, I realized that a.) writing about teaching is probably equally laborious as preparing a lecture, but reading about teaching is not half as fun as giving a lecture, b.) that very many from us have already reported from conferences, and c.) that I write about my own work all the time. Hence, I decided to do something that I think I am good at; to combine things.


At the 16th IIFET conference (IIFET stands for International Institute for Fisheries Economics and Trade) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, I saw a very interesting presentation by Mialy Andriamahefazafy with the title „Weak regulation of distant water fleets puts rented fishery in jeopardy; a critical analysis of fisheries partnership agreements in Madagascar”. And frankly, her presentation has left me wondering how much impact we can have when we focus on (marginal) improvement of fisheries management in Nordic waters when we continue to exploit Southern oceans, such as the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) of Madagascar, without even reporting how much we fish in these waters? If fisheries are an important contribution to food security around the globe, as we often write in our grant proposals, should we not turn our attention to those places where the action is, both in terms of need and in terms of where the real gains from improved management – indeed from management at all – can be harvested?


Now here comes the teaching aspect into my blog: First of all, things are not as simple as my bold questions suggest. If there is some nation allowed to fish in another nation’s EEZ without reporting according to some “partnership agreement”, then there is someone in that other nation who is allowing this. If the objective is to feed the most people at the least cost, it might in fact be efficient that Western trawlers catch the fish instead of small local boats. If the objective is to promote development, it may be that the access to fishing grounds has in fact been exchanged for much needed infrastructure or other forms of assistance.


Second, the relationship between the scope of efficiency gains that can be obtained from improved management might follow a simple inverted-U shape relationship. In communities/nations that are very poor and where harvesting is mainly artisanal, the ecosystems are most likely only lightly exploited and there is not much to gain from improved management. The simple reason is that effort is constrained by the lack of available technology and communal structures are probably sufficiently well working to avoid the worst tragedy of the commons. On the other end of the spectrum, fisheries are industrialized and highly developed, but so is the science and the surrounding management institutions. It is in the middle ground, where the real gains are to be had. The existence of these type of inverted-U shape relationship (“Kuznets curves” in econ-speak) is highly disputed in the literature, and my sketch is of course a crass simplification, but it would be at least a thinking point for further research.


Third, there is a very good reason why it makes sense to estimate efficiency gains from improved management in Northern waters. It is here where we have a reasonably good understanding of the biology and of the social setting surrounding the fisheries. It is here where we have adequate data, long time-series, and the means to update and maintain this valuable information. It is here where we learn our lessons that we can then apply to other contexts.


In short, let’s focus on the North, thinking about the South!


(P.S. In case you wonder where my own work comes into this combination: the title is a shameless plug from one of my working papers, see

Published Sep. 3, 2012 6:18 PM - Last modified Sep. 3, 2012 7:55 PM