Session 2A – Evaluating the Effects of Fisheries Management Measures on Risk-taking and Safety in Commercial Fishing: Efforts by the National Marine Fisheries Service

Monday, June 11, 10:45am–12:15pm, Arts and Administration Building, Room A1049


Commercial fishing is a dangerous occupation despite many regulatory initiatives aimed at making it safer. National Standard 10 of the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA, the act governing fisheries management in the US) requires that conservation and management measures shall, to the extent practicable, promote the safety of human life at sea (MSA section 301(a)(10)). The fisheries management process can more explicitly address and promote safety through empirical research on the effects of management actions on safety. Research can be used to inform and evaluate proposed management measures, as well as develop additional guidance on ways to evaluate National Standard 10.

This session will describe a number of these empirical studies by researchers at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries). The individual studies are part of a national collaborative working group to contribute to the empirical evaluation of management actions on fishing safety. Catch shares management, or the individual allocation of tradeable fishing quota, is a key focus of this research. Catch shares fisheries are particularly relevant to this discussion because catch shares can improve safety by mitigating many of the problems associated with the competitive “race to fish” experienced in fisheries around the world. The competitive nature of such fisheries results in risky behavior such as fishing in poor weather, overloading vessels with fishing gear, and neglecting maintenance. While not necessarily intended to address safety issues, catch shares can reduce many of the economic incentives to fish as rapidly as possible. However, many other types of regulations that affect the flexibility of fishing are also relevant and informative.

The presentations in this session will provide some examples of how researchers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries evaluate past and proposed management actions on fishing safety, taking into consideration the economic decision-making that drives the choices that fishermen make.


2A.1  Risk assessments of fisheries to inform policy Deb Lambert, NOAA Fisheries, Office of Sustainable Fisheries, and Maria Vasta, NOAA Fisheries, Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Commercial fishing remains a dangerous occupation despite many regulatory initiatives aimed at making it safer. There are a number of economic, environmental, regulatory, and cultural conditions that can influence fishermen’s safety. One way to identify the major hazards and safety patterns present within a fishery is to conduct a risk assessment of that fishery. The results of this assessment can then be used to inform the development of tools and programs designed to reduce fishermen’s level of risk exposure in that fishery. This presentation will begin with an overview of guidance that NMFS developed for conducting risk assessments, and will be followed by a case study risk assessment of the U.S. northeastern multispecies (groundfish) fishery.


2A.2  Towards a meta-analysis of the effects of catch share management on risk-taking in commercial fisheriesLisa Pfeiffer, NOAA Fisheries, Northwest Fisheries Science Center

When fisheries management creates the incentive to “race for fish”, a fishing season can be reduced to only a few days and involve around-the-clock fishing in life-threatening weather conditions.  Catch shares management, or the individual allocation of tradeable fishing quota, can improve safety by reducing economic incentives to fish as rapidly as possible. This presentation will discuss the modeling framework and established research that will serve as the basis for a series of case studies and a meta-analysis. The framework relies on identifying behavior that is “risky”, and modeling the effects that the policy has on risk-taking. In this case, we use the propensity to fish in poor weather conditions as a proxy for risk. One published case study shows that catch shares reduced fishing in poor weather by 79%.


2A.3  Impacts of catch shares on risk-taking in four U.S. commercial fisheries Tess Petesch, NOAA Fisheries (Presentation slides).

This presentation will describe the impact of transitions from derby fisheries to catch share management on risk-taking among commercial fishermen in three fisheries.  One of the many results of catch share management has been a significant decrease in the speed and intensity of fishing and a lengthening of the fishing season. This is expected to increase safety in fisheries. We find supporting evidence in the Gulf of Mexico red snapper (2007) and grouper-tilefish (2010) fisheries, as well as the Northeast Atlantic sea scallop fishery (2010), although there are many management details fishery characteristics that influence the outcomes.


2A.4 Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety in the Northeastern U.S. Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery: exploring whether catch share management makes a difference – Tammy B. Murphy, NOAA Fisheries, Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Safety outcomes are one measure of the performance of a commercial fishery. Catch share management, which allocates fishing quota to individual vessels or entities, may reduce economic incentives to engage in risky behavior in the “race to fish”. The Multispecies (Groundfish) fishery in the Northeast region of U.S. is considered one of the region’s most dangerous commercial fisheries and transitioned to partial catch share management in 2010. This presentation discusses a framework and ongoing empirical work to apply an established direct measure for risk-taking behavior and vessel safety to the Northeast Multispecies fishery. The objectives are to allow for empirical comparison across federally managed commercial fisheries within a region and throughout the U.S., and to identify factors that may contribute to sustained risk-taking behavior, regardless of management approach.


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