Hidden Flexibility: Institutions, Incentives, and the Margins of Selectivity in Fishing

Joshua K. Abbott, Alan C. Haynie and Matthew N. Reimer


The degree to which selectivity in fisheries is malleable to changes in incentive structures is critical for policy design. We examine data for a multispecies trawl fishery before and after a transition from management under common-pool quotas to a fishery cooperative and note a substantial shift in postcooperative catch from bycatch and toward valuable target species. We examine the margins used to affect catch composition, finding that large- and fine-scale spatial decision making and avoidance of night-fishing were critical. We argue that the poor incentives for selectivity in many systems may obscure significant flexibility in multispecies production technologies. (JEL Q22, Q28)

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