Technological Change and Managerial Ability: Evidence from a Malaysian Artisanal Fishery

Ben Gilbert and Bee Hong Yeo


Technological progress can improve economic development, but its role in the harvest of common resources has received little attention. We study the relationship between skill and the use of electronic and mechanical innovations in the productivity of Malaysian artisanal fishers. Surprisingly, electronics users do not define the frontier, and mechanical winch adopters produced well inside it. We show that if technology is a skill substitute rather than a complement, then it helps less efficient users “catch up” to the production frontier. Policy makers must balance the implications for participation rates and resource depletion against gains for the least-skilled participants. (JEL D24, Q22)