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1.1 Introduction

Capacity utilization is a well recognized concept in economics and has had many industrial applications. However, the implementation of capacity utilization concepts in fisheries is a relatively new and unique application.

This paper seeks to identify some of the differences between excess capacity and overcapacity before going on to look at various measures that can and have been used to assess capacity. The paper then looks at how to recognize situations of overcapacity and at how to incorporate capacity mitigating or correcting measures when regulating fisheries. The paper ends by touching upon some of many types of considerations that need to accompany management efforts to mitigate or correct capacity problems.

1.2 The Terminology

The phrase “excess capacity” has been often cited as the cause of overfishing in many fisheries around the world, and current management philosophy is that - if this so-called excess capacity can be eliminated from fisheries - there is a good chance both that overfishing can be eliminated and that the long term potential yield from a living marine resource can be sustained indefinitely. As a result, quantitative measures of capacity have been proposed and estimated for specific fisheries and globally.

In this paper, a distinction is made between excess capacity, which is a short term phenomenon that is self-correcting in the marketplace, and overcapacity which is pernicious and of indefinite duration. Unfortunately, the role of overcapacity is not well understood with regard to preventing the long term sustainability of fishery resources.

In general terms, capacity can be expressed

More specifically, excess capacity and overcapacity can be expressed

The traditional economics literature on production does not make a clear distinction between excess capacity and overcapacity, and, in fact, these terms are often used as synonyms. Similarly, much of the theoretical discussion of fish harvesting capacity does not make a clear distinction between excess capacity and overcapacity in fisheries. Indeed, most case studies measuring fish harvesting capacity in fisheries focus on excess capacity measures, while overcapacity has generally remained a theoretical discussion expressed in terms of the optimum yield generated by a fishery.

However, making this distinction clear provides guidance to fishery managers in their deliberations to develop effective management strategies and to fishery scientists designing new methods to measure excess and overcapacity in fisheries.[15] Thus, it is important to work on understanding:

Firms can change their production levels in response to market conditions to eliminate excess capacity over the short run, but the elimination of overcapacity requires a change in the management environment. Thus, if managers are to understand the fishery management problem they face, then a clear distinction between these two situations is needed.[16]

Providing information to fishery managers on both types of capacity measures is particularly important when fisheries are heavily regulated to achieve stock conservation goals - because in those situations excess capacity and overcapacity can exist simultaneously.

In contrast, in common property fisheries where fishermen do not have an incentive to conserve fish in the sea and where there are few, if any, regulations to achieve stock conservation goals, excess capacity can be nonexistent while overcapacity can be rampant. Correspondingly, where fishermen have an incentive to conserve fish in the sea, overcapacity can be nonexistent while excess capacity can be extensive.

[15] This seemingly minor distinction between excess capacity and over capacity can be developed based on a model introduced by Greboval and Munroe (1999), and the distinction takes on greater importance once the magnitude of the capacity problem and the concern being expressed by fishery managers and conservation groups is taken into consideration. Once the magnitude of this problem for fisheries managers is understood through a review of the existing fish harvesting capacity studies, then the Greboval and Munroe model is restated and extended to clarify the capacity utilization model.
[16] An expert panel in the USA, composed of Sutinen, J.G., Lee G. Anderson, James Kirkley, Cathy Morrison Paul, Rolf Fare, and Bob O’Boyle identified the need to measure excess and overcapacity as two distinct measures (Sutinen et al., 2001).

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