Managing fisheries via individual
transferable quotas (ITQs):
The New Zealand experience

Kaitilin Gaffney

Wednesday, April 29, 1998
3:30 p.m.—Pacific Forum

Economic theory predicts that establishing property rights structures for natural resources will reduce common environmental problems associated with degradation and depletion of open-access resources (the "tragedy of the commons"). In recent years this theory had been applied to environmental management problems ranging from air pollution (via emissions-trading programs) to range management (argument for privatizing public lands).

gaffney.jpg (16694 bytes)In the context of marine fisheries, property-rights based management manifests in the form of individual transferable quota (ITQ) regimes. Entitling its holder to harvest a pre-determined percentage of total allowable catch, ITQ is credited with eliminating the "race to fish", and reducing pressures towards overcapitalization and overfishing.

ITQs are currently applied to a handful of U.S. fisheries, most notably the Alaskan halibut and sablefish fisheries. However, in its 1996 reauthorization of the Magnuson Act, Congress issued a moratorium on new ITQ programs pending recommendations on a national ITQ policy to be issued by a Congressionally convened National Research Council panel on the subject.

New Zealand has used ITQs to manage most of its commercially significant marine fisheries since 1986. I spent 1997 in New Zealand, under a Fulbright Fellowship, examining that country's experience with ITQ management. My study addressed the general economic, social, biological, and institutional implications of ITQ management. The news from New Zealand is neither all good nor all bad, but that nation's decade of experience certainly has many important lessons for other nations considering adopting, or expanding, use of ITQs.

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