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R.Bruce Rettig
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Oregon 97331


Although programmes to limit the number of participants in specific fisheries in the United States and Canada have precedents dating far back in time, most activities have occurred during the last fifteen years. An ordinance restricting the number of vessels harvesting oysters in one area in New York State was passed in 1679. Another early example (1889) is the limitation to the number of fishing boats to be used on the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada. That these and other examples were uncovered by scholarly research supports the view that licence-control programmes tended to be relatively localized and/or of quite short duration until recently. Current licence limitation programmes in Canada began with the lobster fishery in Atlantic Canada (1967) and the salmon fishery in British Columbia (1968), with coverage extending to other fisheries in the 1970s. Some programmes in the United States began in 1968 (e.g. Michigan and Wisconsin), with programmes to freeze the total number of fishing licences in several important Pacific and New England fisheries coming into effect in the early 1970s.

As the concept of licence limitation became increasingly familiar and as licence control programmes were more widely considered, interest grew in the strengths and weaknesses of the earlier programmes. Public officials drew on prior experience, hoping to avoid mistakes made in other geographical areas as well as to correct errors which they or their predecessors might have made. Both proponents and opponents in the fishing industry drew on information about earlier experiences to document their own point of view.

The advent of extended fishery jurisdiction led both the United States and Canada to re-examine the possibility of using licence limitation and other market-related regulations. To enhance these discussions, a series of meetings were held in 1978. A small group of technical experts met in May in Washington State to define possible weaknesses in the use of licence limitation, taxes and individual fisherman quotas. Two months later, a large conference was held in Denver, Colorado to share critical concerns about such approaches among technical experts, public officials and members of the fishing industry. The next month a small group of technical experts met on the British Columbia coast to further explore possible weaknesses of limited entry, with a critical focus on finding ways to improve the effectiveness of Canadian management programmes. The United States meetings resulted in the volume edited by Rettig and Ginter (1980), while selected papers from the Canadian meeting were published as a special issue of the “Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada” (Pearse, 1979).

Although all 1978 meetings were effective in sharing information on limited entry programmes in the United States, Canada and a few other countries and in identifying points of concern, none led directly to revised programmes. Subsequent discussions have taken different directions in the United States and Canada, associated with different fishery management institutions in the two countries. In Canada, commissions of enquiry have been formed for the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, to develop concrete suggestions for changes in fishery policy. The Pacific commission has filed its final report (Pearse, 1982) and the final report of the Atlantic commission is expected in the near future. In the United States, where decisions on the use of limited entry must be initiated at either state or regional levels (by law the national government is barred from such initiatives), important discussions have taken place on new approaches. For example, in Alaska, adoption of an individual shares programme for the valuable Pacific halibut fishery is being discussed, while California, Oregon and Washington fishermen have been attempting to identify consequences of limited entry in multi-purpose and multispecies fishing fleets (a problem stressed by New England fishermen at the 1978 conference).

The purpose of this paper is to paint a broad picture of the various programmes which have been discussed at the meetings described above. First, some of the points of general agreement will be summarized. Next, several important experiences with licence limitation will be summarized, with the general focus being the scope of those experiences, the reasons for the variation in approaches and a general evaluation. Finally, the paper will conclude with a discussion of trends which appear to be emerging from recent changes in limited entry programmes and some thoughts about what forces are likely to lead to still further changes.

Why limit licences?

One important reason why licence limitation has been more widely adopted than some other forms of limited entry is that it is relatively familiar and understandable. Fishery management has, in common with other forms of public policy, a tendency to evolve under incremental changes. Commercial fishermen do not like to purchase licences but they recognize this as an event which is required from State to State (or province to province) and which has been going on for some time. Indeed, the fewer the new restrictions imposed, the more familiar the criteria for licence eligibility and the more the licence-control programme resembles other programmes familiar to the fishermen, the greater will be the political and administrative feasibility of the programme.

Another, related reason for licence limitation is the line of reasoning which often motivates its adoption. The initial discussions begin with a wide agreement that either “there are too many of us fishermen” or that “there are not too many of us now but we believe that several newcomers plan to enter our fishery and then there will certainly be too many fishermen.” To alleviate or mitigate this concern, participation is temporarily limited to those who have participated in the past or who have already made major financial sacrifices to enter. These moritoria are often renewed once or twice before participants decide that the cause for their concern will not soon disappear. The final step is a conversion of the moritorium to a permanent licence-limitation programme.

Although the common reason for adoption of entry control is a consensus that the number of participants has become too large and threatens to become even larger, the specific programme under discussion and the processes required to develop and implement the programme will lead to a wide variety of objectives. Further, the events which lead to an excessive number of fishermen are quite varied and, due to a diverse set of perceptions by those actively involved, will also lead to a variety of statements of objectives. Since there are so many objectives and the relative importance of the various objectives depends on the perception of those assessing the programme, the objectives are not discussed here but are highlighted in Appendix A.

Which fisheries tend to employ direct controls?

Use of direct controls, whether one is considering licence limitation or a number of other regulations which are sometimes called traditional fishery management measures, is importantly influenced by the stochastic nature of fisheries. Indirect controls often work with a substantial time lag between changes in the regulation and the consequences of such changes. Long delays are unacceptable when fishery management agencies learn that environmental variations, such as a change in timing or intensity of upwelling, have changed the availability and/or abundance of the fish, in turn making an important stock vulnerable to unexpected overfishing. Management of many important fisheries requires the ability to make changes rapidly, especially area closures and gear restrictions.

Pacific salmon and herring fisheries are good examples of the use of direct controls for valuable, highly variable fish populations. The proportion of salmon stocks which survive to the harvestable stage depends critically on environmental conditions in the freshwater and marine stages of their life history. While research into the several salmon species and monitoring of environmental conditions permit management agencies to establish certain regulations in late winter and early spring, which govern seasons through summer and into the fall, any experienced agency biologist will unhappily provide numerous examples of errors leading to serious under-escapement of adult spawners back to hatcheries and natural spawning grounds. Emergency closures of seasons are all to common in salmon fisheries. Consequently, it is not surprising that licence limitation programmes in salmon have garnered more support following years in which environmental “surprises” lead to shortened seasons.

Rapid changes in direct controls are used less in fisheries in which either fish are long-lived and reproduction can be based on several year classes (e.g. Pacific halibut) or in which fishing methods do not tend to threaten the viability of the resource (e.g. Dungeness crab). In the first case, regulations are designed to meet general harvest goals. If over-harvest occurs in one time period, a smaller catch can be allowed in the next time period. In the second case, requirements that sufficient crab of smaller size escape the gear and the ability of the smaller animals to fully serve reproductive needs of the next crab generation reduce the need for in-season changes.

The two examples just given were carefully chosen to illustrate the interest in limited entry even where direct controls are less important. The price of halibut has become so high relative to harvesting costs that an overall catch quota, in combination with uncontrolled entry, has reduced the length of operating season to a few days. Additional costs have been placed on fish processing and there has been a decline in product quality to the ultimate consumer. In the second case, long-term cycles in abundance of Dungeness crab populations lead to expansion in capacity during the up-years of the cycle and significant economic dislocation in down-years. Although many crab fishermen accepted these consequences of the cycle when other valuable fisheries were available for multi-purpose operations during the down-years, increased pressure on alternative fisheries may be changing those views. If such alternate fisheries as Pacific halibut, salmon, groundfish and shrimp all had limited entry programmes, crabbers would be more inclined to support limited entry as a defensive measure.

Relationship between licence limitation and taxes

Commercial fishermen in the United States and Canada pay a wide variety of taxes to local, regional and national governments. Some of these taxes are based on total income earned from fishing plus other sources; some are based on the value of vessel and other real property; some are proportional to the volume of the particular species landed; and there are several other classifications of taxes as well. None of these measures appears to be directly proportional to fishing effort (which is one limited entry proposal) but several are poundage taxes (which has been another proposal to influence fishing effort).

While taxes are widely levied, there are a number of reasons why they cannot be effectively used to address concerns which often trigger requests for limited-entry programmes. The political process through which taxes are altered works very slowly. Tax changes are based on the need for additional revenue by the relevant level of government and have little to do with the number of vessels and fishermen in a particular fishery. Even if taxes could be changed quickly, politicians are more sympathetic to tax increases when landings are high and less receptive when landings are low. Thus, taxes are most feasible when restrictions are not needed and least feasible when restrictions are needed due to natural variability. Even if political arrangements did allow taxes to be adjusted quickly, there are several reasons why taxes are not likely to be effective. When valuable species are scarce, processors will have an incentive to follow approaches such as classifying a heavily taxed species as some other species on the landing receipt. Even if the taxes were effectively enforced, economic studies of fishermen behaviour suggest that their short-run decisions about allocation of fishing effort among various species are not highly responsive to price changes and, hence, many fishermen are unlikely to be responsive to modest changes in tax rates on landings. This long list of “even if” statements strongly suggests that taxes are not likely to be used for short-run regulation of fishing effort.

Rather than serving as a critical tool for fine-tuning effort levels, to meet needs associated with fluctuating biological populations, taxes should be reserved for two alternative but important purposes. First, if other measures such as licence limitation or individual fisherman's quotas were extremely successful in raising income levels of the remaining fishermen, a portion of those increased revenues could be collected as “royalties.” Second, taxes could be set as a long-term limited entry instrument in fisheries in which such factors as extremely high resource value create chronic conditions of excess capacity. Tax measures are likely to be highly unpopular among fishermen unless revenues collected are directly dedicated to research and actions taken to enhance the biological populations being harvested.

Relationship between licence limitation and traditional fishery management

Fishery managers use a “diversified portfolio” of policy instruments including quotas, time and area closures, gear restrictions (such as net mesh size), size limits, limits on the number and/or timing of trips and restrictions on the size of catch by species per trip. In the United States and Canada, these traditional fishery management tools are used to avoid biological over-fishing. Over-fishing, in this context, refers both to impairment of a biological population's potential to fully reproduce itself and to the harvest of a stock at an age where the growth rate significantly exceeds the natural mortality rate. A broad consensus exists within the United States that licence limitation, by itself, is not effective at preventing biological over-fishing and that traditional fishery management measures are often capable of handling these resource-conservation needs without the use of licence limitation.

Traditional fishery management cannot be developed to meet the traditional objective of resource conservation independently from limited entry considerations. Over-capitalization of commercial fisheries often impairs the ability of management agencies to use these regulations as effectively as when the resource was lightly exploited. Although this issue will be thoroughly developed in other background papers, an example may clarify the argument. Seasonal closures are traditionally used to protect fish in certain critical life stages, as when crabs are soft-shelled, and to encourage harvest of fish at larger sizes and/or more desirable quality to the consumer. When seasons are substantially shortened, as a device to allocate the allowable harvest among an excessive number of fishermen, some sub-populations are over-harvested. An associated, but slightly different, concern arises when traditional fishery management measures are used to allocate allowable catch among competing fishermen. These measures are sometimes enforced using data provided by fishermen. Data which, at one time, was very valuable in analysing biological populations then either becomes unavailable or unreliable.

An important reservation needs to be added to the argument that licence limitation enhances the ability of fishery managers to achieve conservation objectives with their traditional means. Licence control programmes do not always lead to planned outcomes. For example, moritoria often increase the number of effectively participating fishermen. Managers then have to deal not only with problems based on fishermen's behaviour in the past but also speculative behaviour arising from the desire to qualify for future changes in the licence programme.

Relationship between licence limitation and private social institutions

In the United States and Canada, fishermen's decisions concerning amount of fishing effort and its distribution over time and space are not simple profit-maximizing choices in a perfectly competitive economy. Rather, many social arrangements apply, some enforced by public law and some enforced through informal social groups such as family, religious institutions and friends. Stories abound about informal understandings that “this is where I fish” and strangers trying to move in may face real or potential violence from the long-time fisherman and his friends.

Several private institutions restrict fishing effort at times when the need is not indicated by resource management criteria. For example, when a fluctuating resource has been particularly abundant, fishermen have gone on strike to negotiate higher prices. Also in years of unexpected abundance, markets for one or more species have been glutted, leading processors to buy only from fishermen who have supplied them in the past. Even those fishermen who secure purchasing outlets may find themselves “on limits” (only a limited number of purchases to be carried out or a limitation on numbers of fish to be accepted at any sale). Just as “output” markets restrict effort at the wrong time, so do “input” markets. A limited number of berths in boat basins, limited gear supplies, etc. occur most frequently when fish are unusually abundant.

While many private arrangements have their impact when they are not needed for management purposes, some counter examples do exist and merit careful consideration. Informal property rights have already been mentioned. Another example is limited information: many fishermen form code groups to tell other members of their group where fishing is good and which areas to avoid. These arrangements increase in importance when fishing is poor. Newcomers find easier access to good information when fish are so abundant that the experienced fishermen do not feel threatened by the newcomers.

Licence limitation is cheaper and finds greater acceptability when it conforms to private social arrangements rather than defying them. This will be illustrated later in this paper when programmes on the Pacific coast are described which include special licence provisions for native Americans. Although this argument has been made in terms of licence limitation, the same principle holds for other forms of limited entry. Rather than developing individual fishermen's quotas which require national or regional decisions on the distribution of individual rights, in some cases group quotas can be defined with a family, ethnic group, cooperative, corporation or other organization dealing rapidly with concerns which are most difficult at the national level.

What are the major criticisms of licence limitation in the United States and Canada

Foremost among concerns about licence limitation voiced by economists is that such programmes tend not to improve economic efficiency as compared to open access conditions. If vessel-licence limitation combined with a fleet reduction programme increases profitability, remaining vessel owners will try to increase their share of the resource by further investment, such as in larger vessel size or additional gear. If licences are tied to fishermen rather than vessels, the same phenomenon will occur - investment will tend to increase the effective fishing power of each remaining fisherman. Thus “capital stuffing” (the tendency to increase the ratio of capital expenditures to whatever component of effort is limited), “seepage” (the tendency for effective fishing effort to seep back when nominal effort is reduced) and similar terms reflect the theoretical economist's argument: if there are n (3 or more) inputs to a productive process, one of which is unpriced (the fish in the sea) and another which is reduced, while the value of the product is constant or continues to rise, then profit-maximizing firms will tend to increase their use of one or more of the other inputs.

The tendency for economic-efficiency gains from licence limitation to be dissipated over time has been recognized by managers of licence control programmes in North America. As British Columbia authorities noted the tendency for the restricted number of vessels in salmon fishing to be replaced by larger vessels, restrictions were added requiring ton-for-ton replacement, i.e., to add a new vessel twice as large as older vessels, two vessels would have to be retired rather than just one. Additional restrictions limited the ability of vessel licences to be transferred from one gear type to a different gear type having greater fishing power per unit of size. The economist-critics agree that changes in rules can offset tendencies to stuff additional capital into a fishery but they still claim losses in economic efficiency associated with the costs to both industry and management as each tries to outguess and keep ahead of the other.

Economic-efficiency gains need not be lost through the processes just described. Where technology is relatively inflexible, there may be few opportunities to invest additional capital in certain vessel types. Even if new technology is embodied in greater investment, it may take place so slowly that new management rules can easily offset its impact with little loss. Also, the short-run gains may justify programme adoption even if seepage is complete in the long-run. Several other forces can also retard investment thought not to be in the larger group's interest. These factors include social sanctions imposed by the group, existence of formal or informal property rights, tax laws which discourage investment (note that accelerated depreciation tax treatment and public loan/subsidy programmes, on the other hand, tend to more quickly eliminate economic gains to the group) and incomplete information about investment opportunities. However, the more rapidly the value of the fishery rises over time and the greater the opportunity to increase fishing power per dollar invested, the weaker are the forces just described.

Licence-limitation programmes which affect economic efficiency also affect the distribution of wealth. The possibility that the income distribution will become more skewed is of slight concern; of greater concern is that a few become wealthier because of a government programme. That is, many fishermen will accept unequal wealth based on differences in skill or information, gained through experience and willingness to accept great risk, but will find it more difficult to accept those same inequalities when conferred by an act of law. The qualification for licences being associated with historical landings records, therefore, responds to two important considerations - to mitigate income losses by those who are kept out of the fishery and to award income gains in proportion to criteria acceptable to fishermen. Nevertheless, equity considerations are usually the most difficult for programme designers to address and are the grounds on which programmes will be most critically judged by the public.

Even greater than the concern for distribution among a group of fishermen are the feelings by United States and Canadian fishermen about the impact of licence-limitation programmes in allocating fishing access among groups. Group classifications which have been associated with the greatest amount of public discussion relate to geography, gear type, ethnic heritage and reason for harvest (recreation, commercial sale or subsistence). Beyond the desire by each group to defend its interest relative to another group's interest, there are important social concerns that are impinged upon by licence limitation. The Alaska legislature attempts to protect the interests of Alaskan fishermen, relative to fishermen from other States, in part because of concern for high unemployment in coastal fishing communities. The relative amount of salmon fishing effort allocated between trollers and net fishermen will influence the proportion of fish which will go into canned relative to fresh fish markets. Commitments to native American populations (American Indian) and Eskimos lead to differential access requirements in both Canada and the United States, which appear to be approved by the national population but are deeply resented by local non-Indian fishermen. Consideration of these diverse social objectives, as important as they are, create great difficulties for designers of licence limitation programmes.

In summary, the “softer” the licence limitation programme, the less likely it is to create economic-efficiency gains, while the “harder” the programme, the more likely it is to create administrative and political difficulties, especially due to concern for equity. These are the sort of issues which Clem Tillion can be expected to address articulately. The arguments made in this section, some of which will be discussed by Tillion, as well as additional ones which were raised at the 1978 United States conference on limited entry, are capsulated in Appendix B.


British Columbia

The licence limitation programme for salmon in British Columbia has been widely discussed because it was the first such action in North America to substantially alter a large, highly valuable fishery covering a wide geographical area and diverse gear groups. Canadians had tried many approaches to deal with overfishing problems in this fishery, including two early attempts at limited entry, one from 1889 to 1892 and one from 1908 to 1917. The current programme was announced in 1968 and initiated in 1969 following more than a decade of analysis and discussion among academicians, government officials and the fishing industry.

The initial public announcement of the limited entry programme emphasized two objectives - to increase the earning power of fishermen and to permit more effective management. However, each of these objectives was actually more complex. Underlying the first objective was a goal of effecting socio-economic rationalization of a fleet which was believed to have become far too large, while “more effective management” reflected a desire to improve the capacity of traditional fishery management tools to achieve resource conservation goals. Although equity considerations and administrative feasibility were not comparably discussed, both the choice of management measures and the process by which they were introduced imply careful consideration of these objectives.

The programme, as initially announced, had four parts which were to be phased in over several years. Fleet size was to be immediately frozen, followed by fleet reduction, an improvement in vessel standards and product quality, and, finally, introduction of optimal gear and area regulations. As time went by, some measures were deferred or introduced in a weakened form while other measures were added which had not been part of the original programme design. Critics tend to consider these changes a desertion of responsibility and reaction to special interest groups while supporters applaud the adaptive process by which policy is revised in response to new information.

Experience with licence control in the British Columbia salmon fishery suggests that among the most important questions are: Who qualifies initially? How is qualification maintained? Are licences transferable and, if so, how? Other than receiving a transferred licence, are there ways to enter the fishery? How much is the licence fee? Are licences simply frozen or are there either fleet-reduction or controlled fleet-growth programmes? Does the licence apply to one species, all fish or some defined group of species? What geographical area does the licence cover? Is the licence specialized to specific gear types? Some of the programme elements have already been described. A few more will be touched on in a brief summary evaluation of the programme and others will be discussed when other programmes are covered below.

Did the programme make the fishery more efficient in an economic sense? Those who have assessed the programme are deeply divided. Critics have made a clear case that, while the number of licensed vessels has declined by over one-fifth, the capacity of the fleet has grown substantially along with capital investment. This has happened through the replacement of old vessels with newer, larger, more technically efficient vessels and by the addition of new technology embodied in the gear deployed. One of the counter-arguments is that much of the reason that capacity has grown in the last fifteen years is that salmon prices have risen sharply and that without licence limitation an even larger amount of investment would have taken place. Evidence for this argument includes the growth in the Pacific halibut fishery where licences were not limited until 1979. A second counter-argument is that the new vessels are both safer and more comfortable and these outcomes should be counted as benefits rather than costs.

Public revenues have gone up. Indian licences, and non-Indian licences which are tied to low-production vessels and are slated to expire in 1983, are $20 per year. License fees for non-Indian, high-production vessels range from $200 to $800, depending upon length and weight of the vessels. Here, critics would argue that this rise in revenue collected is small both in absolute amount and relative to the increase in public expenditure on salmon research, management and protection of the resource.

Has the programme been administratively effective and politically responsive? Here, also, one's answer depends upon one's perspective. The frequent changes in the programme and numerous studies of the programme can suggest either that the decision-making authority concentrated in the office of the Canadian Minister of Fisheries is exceptionally responsive or that a series of bad decisions were made and had to be corrected.

As already mentioned, original plans were to reduce the capacity of the fishing fleet. One way to achieve this was to limit ordinary licences to harvesters with a significant involvement in the salmon fishery and to phase small producers out during the next ten years. Adjustment of qualification rules to give licences to fishermen without recent salmon landing history was certainly responsive and probably equitable, but it also made fleet reduction more difficult. The fleet reduction (buyback) programme was never funded at a significant level and was plagued with problems. Finally, while the plans were to increase licence fees modestly at the outset and increase them sharply at a later date, increases never did rise to a level which observers judged to be very high. All of these variations from original plans were politically responsive but worked against the capacity-reduction objective.

Has the programme been responsive to equity considerations? While the answer certainly depends upon one's perspective, several programme elements and adjustments over time indicate high sensitivity to equity concerns. For example, initial eligibility for a regular licence (transferable and indefinite in tenure) was proof of a record of significant involvement in commercial salmon fishing, while eligibility for a temporary licence (renewable up to ten years only - later extended five more years) was based on a history of smaller harvest levels. Restriction on the number of licences to be held by processing companies was added in response to fishermen's arguments that concentration of many licences in the hands of a few would not be fair to the bulk of the fishermen. Although economists made a case for transferability of licences on economic-efficiency grounds, this licence feature was even more strongly supported by the equity argument that a salmon fisherman who labours long and hard deserves to pass that privilege to other members of his family or to benefit through sale of the licence.

The part of the licence programme designed on equity grounds which has probably most perplexed government officials has related to Indians, especially those in isolated fishing communities. During 1969 and 1970, Indians were treated just as non-Indians, except that the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs worked actively to support new entrants and to keep eligible Indians in the ordinary (“A” licence) programme rather than the temporary (“B” licence) programme. In 1971, a new licence (A1) was created for Indians which combined the features of low licence fees and indefinite tenure. These new licences were freely transferable to other Indians but could only be transferred to non-Indians by paying the accumulated difference between actual payments for the A1 licence and payments which would have taken place had the licence been an A licence. In 1972 all temporary (B) licenses held by Indians were reclassified as A1. Following a steady decline in numbers of Indian fishermen, holders of Indian licences were no longer permitted to convert them to ordinary licences beginning in 1980. In summary, several measures in the licence control programme were taken in concert with other actions by the Canadian government to address equity concerns for the aboriginal population.

Has the licence limitation programme enhanced the ability of management to promote resource conservation? While there is disagreement over the relative role of licence limitation among the various factors influencing resource conservation, there is disappointment that the proposed Phase IV (more optimal gear and area regulations) never did appear within the total licence-control programme. Current vessels are more mobile, flexible and efficient than was the 1968 fleet. Consequently, more regulations rather than fewer are required to ensure adequate spawning escapement. However, other factors might well have made circumstances as difficult, if not more so, if licence limitation had not taken place.

Several other fisheries in British Columbia also have licence-limitation programmes. These will not be reviewed here other than to point out that they have arisen for a wide variety of reasons, have had highly varied objectives and have met with different rates of success. The roe-herring fishery effectively began in 1972, after herring stocks had partially recovered from a collapse and international markets became accessible to Canadians (Pearse, 1982). In this case, licence limitation was used in 1974 to gain control over an industry which was growing at a phenomenal rate. Licence fees were rather high ($2,000 for a seine licence, $200 for a gill-net licence and $10 to Indians for either gear-type). The licences were assigned to individuals rather than vessels. Licences were initially non-transferable; later exceptions were made for spouse or next of kin; still later ways were found to make subtle transfers through leasing arrangements. Since the licence control programme had only a limited impact on growth of effective fishing effort, it also had a limited influence on a fishery where resource-conservation goals were very difficult to achieve.

Atlantic Canada

Many fisheries in the eastern provinces of Canada have limited-entry programmes. Although licence limitation was applied to the nearshore lobster fishery in 1967, most of the current programmes were initiated in the early 1970s. The programmes have become fairly complex, apparently to the dissatisfaction of both fishermen and the government (Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 1981).

Broadly speaking, the goals of the Atlantic licence limitations were the same as those for the Pacific. However, two important factors significantly limited the ability of the Canadian government to press either quickly or far in controlling fishermen and vessel numbers. First, not only are Canada's Atlantic fisheries economically depressed, but much of that part of Canada experiences chronically high unemployment. Most of the fishermen engage in other activities and use fishing as a part-time occupation. Consequently, any programme which would greatly reduce employment in any fishing activity meets significant opposition. Second, Canadians harvested a modest share of valuable fish populations in very productive waters over which they claimed exclusive control only in 1977. In those fisheries, allocation of access among domestic fishermen was not considered to be appropriate until the international access issues were resolved. Similar problems delayed or complicated discussion of licence control over certain resources in British Columbia, but in Atlantic Canada sensitivities appear to have run even higher. That this special factor appears to be related to historic management of the Grand and Georges Banks is supported by the parallel experiences of New England fishermen in the United States.

Summary statements by groups currently examining Atlantic Canada licence limitation imply that these programmes appear to be harshly judged using economic efficiency, administrative feasibility, equity and resource-conservation criteria. Why this may be the case will be explored by others at this Consultation. In any event, there appear to be tendencies to decentralize decision-making with respect to licence control and to consider novel approaches such as individual fisherman's quotas.


Objectives for Alaska's license limitation programme for salmon can be stated simply as: to raise income levels of native Alaskan fishermen and to increase the ability of management agencies to address conservation needs. As was true for British Columbia, however, the development and administration of the current programme reflect a much wider array of goals, which are the product of a century's struggle to manage a valuable resource and of consideration of the special needs of the people affected. Alaskans have long resented dictation of their fate by a government headquartered far away on the other side of the North American continent. Alaskan fishermen have also resented their dominance by a canning industry which, for many years, was centred far to the south in Seattle, Washington. Finally, resident fishermen mistrust and often resent foreign fishermen, including both fishermen from other Nations intercepting salmon on the high seas and fishermen from other States.

The struggle to improve the share of salmon harvested by native Alaskans was a key part of the 1956 constitution when Alaska became a state. It also led to two attempts (1962, 1968) to pass limited-entry laws giving preference to local fishermen. Both of these attempts to discriminate against non-Alaskan United States citizens were overturned by federal courts. Having been frustrated many times prior to statehood and twice since, a study group carefully prepared legislation in 1972 which addressed a wide variety of social, economic and conservation objectives for a complex limited-entry programme.

In contrast to the tendency in most programmes to qualify virtually anyone with a history of salmon fishing, the Alaskans carefully defined eligibility rules to force out a number of fishermen. Not only was limited entry to reduce the size of the heavily over-capitalized fleet but those remaining were to result in improved management and a more professional fishery. Eligibility for a licence was based upon the degree of economic dependence upon the fishery and the extent of past participation in it.

While Alaskans chose not to state an overall concept of economic efficiency, rather identifying a number of broadly stated economic and social goals, they were nevertheless committed to avoiding the “capital stuffing” which they observed in British Columbia. To deal with the shifting of vessels into processing-company ownership, with the replacement of vessels using one gear type by vessels with more powerful gear types and the shifting of vessels from one area to another, licences were assigned to fishermen rather than vessels and were specific to a particular gear type and area. Although any fisherman could not have more than one licence in each category, he could own single licences in more than one category. For example, he could not own two Cook Inlet purse-seine licences and a Chignik purse-seine licence. This level of detail in licensing did increase the control of licences but it also increased the cost of initially awarding licences and monitoring the number of licences over time.

Licences are transferable, although this characteristic has been reviewed and does find opposition. One of the concerns, that transferability would lead to a shift of ownership away from Alaskans, seems to be unfounded. Of the entry permits transferred between 1975 and 1978, 58 percent were transactions between residents, 20 percent were transactions between non-residents, 14 percent were transfers from non-residents to residents and 7 percent were transfers from residents to non-residents. The average price paid in these transactions generally rose over that time and varied widely by gear type and area.

Annual fees charged for interim-use or entry permits also are more complex than in other areas using licence limitation. Annual fees at the outset varied by type of gear used from $10 to $100. In 1978, differentiation was added with respect to residency - residents' fee schedules ranged from $20 to $200 and non-residents' fees from $60 to $600. For the calendar year 1978, the average permit fee was $70 for residents, $289 for non-residents and $15 for those persons who qualified for a special poverty permit (Morehouse and Rogers, 1980).

Evaluation of Alaska's salmon licence limitation programme in terms of economic efficiency is difficult, both because that criterion was never specifically addressed and because the last decade has seen several forces strongly altering circumstances in all Alaskan fisheries. Selected evidence does suggest that some economic gains have been achieved. First, the substantial prices new entrants pay to purchase permits is consistent with the existence of an economic rent to licence control. For example, licences in Southeast Alaska in 1978 transferred at prices ranging from $600 to $50,000 depending upon gear type; in Bristol Bay prices paid for drift-gillnet licences that same year ranged from $1,000 to $60,000. These prices do reflect phenomena beyond just current net income of vessels in limited fisheries. However, reports that vessel owners with valid entry permits find it easier to borrow money from banks support the view that licence values embody capitalized future rents from access to a limited fishery. These high values are perhaps somewhat surprising in that buyback programmes have not been seriously undertaken and, hence, capacity in 1978 was still excessive. Most recently, salmon returns have been phenomenally large and consumer demand for canned salmon has been temporarily depressed. However, the long-term outlook for the Alaska salmon fishery still appears to be quite good.

Given the great attention to equity considerations, it is not greatly surprising that the programme has been quite effective in meeting its creators' goals. Bargaining power appears to have shifted away from processing companies and toward fishermen, although the relationships between these parties continue to be of great concern to the State Government. The fishermen who qualified initially for entry and those who have since entered are more diversified and tend to include a larger fraction of full-time fishermen, even though the discrimination against part-time fishermen desired by some early limited-entry advocates was not explicitly included in the law passed. The tendency for licences to be transferred toward individuals with higher incomes and the difficulty of entrance by low-income fishermen is a common theme expressed by critics. Associated with this shift, there is also a tendency for the number of permits held by rural residents to decline as permits tend to move both from non-residents and rural residents to fishermen living in the more populous Alaskan communities (Morehouse and Rogers, 1980). This outcome is viewed with alarm by some and as a natural outgrowth of the professionalization of the fishery by others.

While the influence of licence limitation is hard to separate from many other changes which have influenced fishery management in the last decade, licence control appears to support the effectiveness of measures used to ensure resource conservation. Salmon management is based upon forecasts of the size of stocks returning to specific river systems and calculations of spawning escapements for each river or stream. Allowable harvest by area for specific time intervals is based upon the difference between these two estimates. Rapid, unplanned growth in fishing effort by a gear type at any time or place could add uncertainty to management decisions already plagued by large variations originating in the natural environment.

Many of the measures taken in Alaska would not be politically feasible in other parts of the United States. Among the reasons why they were feasible in Alaska are: failure of early attempts at limited entry, which provided a realization that careful construction of legislation and a broad base of administrative expertise would be needed; pronounced, documented trends of the increase in gear, accompanied by decline in returns and a general sense of crisis among fishermen; the commercial fishery's role as a dominant industry; a State legislature with many members knowledgeable about fisheries and even more members concerned about fisheries; interest and expert support from a variety of agencies and individuals; and concerned, active involvement by Alaskan fishermen (Adasiak, 1980: 273–274).

While most of the discussion concerning Alaskan limited entry has focused on salmon, several valuable herring fisheries have been placed under licence limitation and the highly valuable Pacific halibut fishery is being considered for some possibly innovative form of limited entry. As was the case with British Columbia, the interest in limited entry for herring grew most strongly out of the resource conservation needs of a resource which is valued for its roe and which tightly congregates at spawning time. Resource managers argue that no harvest should be permitted without some form of access control due to the extreme vulnerability of the fish populations. As was also the case in British Columbia, Alaskans have long been interested in limited entry for Pacific halibut but were not willing to act until agreement had been reached concerning the international division of the resource. Thorny problems relating to the initial allocation of resource rights, no matter what form of limited entry is adopted, feature discussions of the needs of large versus small vessels, native Alaskans versus fishermen based in the “lower 48” and recent entrants versus fishermen with long-term involvement.

Washington, Oregon and California

While licence limitation programmes now in effect on the Pacific coast of the United States date back to the beginning of this century, they have become a predominant feature of fishery management in major fisheries only during the last decade. The State of Washington has long controlled access to fisheries for oyster and subtidal hardshell clams. In 1967, limited entry was extended to geoduck clams. Herring limited-entry programmes were approved in Washington in 1973 and in California in 1974. California also limited entry to the abalone fishery in 1976. Nevertheless, the public awareness of limited entry in all three States grew out of moritoria on participation in commercial salmon fisheries established in Washington in 1974, followed by somewhat similar provisions in Oregon and California in the same year.

As was the case with Alaska and British Columbia, salmon fishery over-capitalization in Washington has existed for a long time. A limited entry measure which was passed through the initiative process in 1934 was found to be unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. The Washington Department of Fisheries consistently worked for a licence moritorium in every session of the state legislature, beginning in 1965, and began to receive significant industry support in 1971 (Mundt, 1975: 18). However, a major reason for enactment of a licence moritorium in 1974 was the first of a series of federal court decisions which were to allocate salmon resources from non-Indians to Indians and turn a rather over-capitalized fishery into the crisis environment in which it remains today.

In 1853, the first governor of the State of Washington negotiated eight treaties with Indian tribes of western Washington. Provisions in those treaties which reserved their ancestral fishing rights have been hotly contested ever since. Following a decade of rising violence, the United States filed suit against the State of Washington in 1970. The decision rendered in 1974 by Judge George Boldt and upheld in 1979 by the United States Supreme Court required local authorities to take substantive action to increase the fishing opportunities of the treaty Indians. Subsequent regulations, associated with a number of other events, caused economic dislocation of many non-Indian fishermen. The temporary moritorium measure enacted in 1974 has since been replaced by a permanent limited-entry law. Several attempts at buy-back programmes have had mixed success because of the modest level of funds provided to date by the federal government and the unwillingness in Washington to raise buy-back funds through significantly increasing taxes on economically stressed fishing fleets.

Washington salmon fishermen facing shortened seasons and other increases in regulations shifted southward toward Oregon and California. This took place at a time that both of those States were themselves dealing with over-capitalization, a decline in the availability in certain fish stocks due to environmental factors and growing pressures to accommodate Indian fishermen on the Columbia and Klamath-Trinity river systems. Although initial pressure for licence limitation in California was brought to bear by threat of a federal licensing scheme, adoption of moritoria in both Oregon and California in 1979 was largely due to growing concerns on the part of fishermen.

There are a number of interesting similarities and differences in the laws among the three States. Both Washington and Oregon limited the number of vessels, while California limited people engaged in the commercial ocean salmon fishery. All three States based initial qualifications on very permissive standards. Basically, one was “in” if one landed one (two in Washington) salmon in any of five (six in California) base years prior to the programme or owned a boat under construction during part of the base period or made a good-faith purchase of a vessel intended for salmon fishing. California also included cooperation in landing one salmon as another criterion. Not surprisingly, the number of licensed fishermen rose in the first year of the programme. Licences in Washington and Oregon are transferable while the initial California legislation did not permit transfers, other than for a 15-day emergency substitution. Provisions to reduce the size of fleet consisted of natural attrition associated with non-transferability in California and loss of licence, if continuing landings are not made, in Oregon and Washington. Perhaps of even greater interest than the differences and similarities of initial bills in the three States is that the California legislature, at the request of fishermen, adopted a permanent limited-entry programme in 1982 which changed the licence from association with the fishermen to association with the vessel and made licences transferable. These changes were identified by fishermen who had discussed these features at great length.

Stated objectives of all three programmes were quite similar to those in areas already described - to improve the economic health of the industry while meeting resource-conservation commitments. In each case motivation was associated with the conflict between a fleet size which had grown too large and severe difficulties in meeting spawning-escapement goals. Detailed evaluation is quite difficult, both because these programmes are relatively new and because of the impact of other developments. Nonetheless, a general impression emerges that the high profile of fishermen in programme design, ease of entrance qualifications, minimal fleet reduction policies and low licence fees have tended to lead to high political feasibility, acceptable administrative feasibility, low programme costs, contentious but relatively satisfactory equity treatment and minimal impact on either resource-conservation or economic-efficiency goals.

Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio

The Great Lakes, which separate the United States and Canada in the middle of the North American continent, have long provided rich fishery resources to both countries. Early in this centry, several lakes had important commercial fisheries. However, the commercial fisheries have tended to decline for a number of years because of environmental degradation, growing pressure to reallocate fish to recreationists and assertion of Indian fishing-rights claims. Following a rapid growth in commercial fishing regulations, Wisconsin authorized limited entry on Lake Superior in 1967 and Lake Michigan in 1978. Michigan created a licence limitation programme on Lake Michigan in 1968 and Ohio passed a limited-entry law dealing with Lake Erie in 1974.

Although these inland fisheries will not be discussed at length, a few key features are worth noting. The discussion of the Alaska and British Columbia limited-entry programmes included references to the desire by some to shift the growing commercial fishing industry toward more professional, full-time fishermen. In the Great Lakes, qualification criteria were used vigorously to shift a declining labour force toward more participation by professional, full-time fishermen with the hope of drawing qualified young people into the industry. Qualifications include historic landings at a significant level. All three States have sharply increased licence fees, in large part to remove the part-time fishermen. All States have licences which are transferable through the state fishery management agency. This agency attempts to discourage, but not to stop, transfers. Licences are tied to vessels, with various additional stipulations about vessel ownership. Michigan has employed a buyout programme, funded out of State revenues, to reduce gillnet gear. In 1975, a quota-shares programme was established in Michigan for chubs.

The Wisconsin and Michigan programmes were introduced at fairly modest scale with substantial changes in 1978 and 1974, respectively, and the Ohio programme began in 1974. Evaluations written in 1978 suggest that the programmes were designed for equity and resource-conservation reasons, subject to administrative feasibility constraints. Economic efficiency was not directly identified as an important goal. Although concern was expressed with respect to some stocks, licence control appears to have enhanced effective management. Key equity goals have related to reducing sport vs. commercial conflicts. Although conflicts remain, the consensus appears to be that limited entry has been helpful.

New England

The discussion of Atlantic Canada included a reference to numerous, complex factors which evolved over many years of harvesting the very valuable fishery resources in the North Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of the United States and Canada. Perhaps because of the complexity of these factors, limited entry has found very little application, although it has been and continues to be widely discussed. However, the same highly valuable and vulnerable fishery to receive the first modern limited entry programme in Canada has also led to licence limitation in New England.

Informal property rights have played an important role in limiting access to some lobster resources in New England (Acheson, 1975). Fishermen tend to work areas which they have worked in the past. Violation of this practice has led to violence against the interlopers, sometimes to their persons but most commonly in terms of damage to their gear. However, property rights which are not enforceable by law were eroded by the growth in the value of the resource and the shift of harvesting activities further out to sea.

Two New England States, Maine and Massachusetts, responded to the over-capitalization of their lobster fisheries with attempts at limited entry. In 1975, Maine froze lobster licences and attempted to develop a permanent system for restricting licences. Political feasibility within the State required discrimination against non-residents which, in turn, was not acceptable in federal courts. Rather than pursuing the matter further, as was done in Alaska, the matter was dropped. However, discussions alone have been credited with significantly increasing participation. When discussions were dropped, participation rates also fell. On a parallel note, a moritorium on new lobster licences was passed in Massachusetts in 1975. While the number of licences issued in 1975 was virtually the same as in 1974, the number of licences reporting jumped from 876 to 1,201. Effort then rose, with the number of pots fished growing by 10 percent between 1975 and 1977 (50 percent between 1974 and 1977). These numbers illustrate one conclusion reached in many other areas as well - if the only thing you do is place a moritorium on the numbers participating in a fishery, the short-run effect will be to increase fishing effort, leading to negative impacts in terms of economic efficiency, resource conservation and, probably, equity. If one is not willing to take other steps, that first step (moritorium) should be very carefully considered.

Mid-Atlantic Surf Clams and Ocean Quahogs

One last example of a limited entry programme in the United States is included because of a key difference with the other programmes already discussed. While the Canadian limited entry programmes have been formulated by the national government, all the United States programmes discussed so far were the result of State actions. The reason is that, while there are constitutional grounds for federal control over most, if not all, natural resources, there is a long history of delegation of natural resource management, especially fish and wildlife management, to State authorities. However, when the United States passed its extended fishery jurisdiction legislation, permission was granted for federal limited entry programmes, subject to a number of procedural limitations. The first regional planning body to authorize such a limited entry programme was the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the fisheries so regulated were surf clams and ocean quahogs.

Surf clams are a valuable resource whose harvest grew very rapidly in the 1950s and 1960s. Although many fishing grounds were depleted, no consensus for action emerged, both because discovery of new groups kept the total harvest at high levels and because the appropriate management response would require a strong, coordinated effort among fishery agencies in States not widely known either for cooperation or coordination in natural resource management. In 1976, two events took place concurrently - total landings fell to 49 million pounds from 87 million pounds the previous year and extended fishery jurisdiction created a mechanism for regional planning efforts which could be implemented through national regulation. Consequently, a multi-State task force of agency biologists which had been working carefully with the harvesting and processing industries suddenly found themselves reporting to a planning body committed to resource conservation and possessing a mechanism to achieve such goals.

The Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog Fisheries Management Plan was developed by a body of State and Federal Agency members as well as public members close to the industry in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, in close consultation with a simular group in New England. The objectives of the plan, which was accepted in November 1977, were to rebuild stocks to the maximum sustainable yield level while minimizing short-term economic disruptions. A moritorium on new entry, annual and quarterly catch quotas, a limit on days and hours fished per week, restriction of fishing in areas composed of young clams and requirements for record-keeing were all enacted to reach these goals. The general consensus is that the regulations helped to prevent the collapse of the fishery and has helped to rebuild stocks. The moritorium has since been extended.

While there is consensus on attainment of conservation objectives, there is disagreement about economic effects. Some argue that the management system permitted a concentrated processing sector to depress surf clam prices. Adding this to a depressed economy, they argue that “the moritorium has had little or no effect because the economic incentives to attract new capital have not been present” (Strand, Kirkley and McConnell, 1981: p.136). A contrasting view is that “a significant upgrading of the fleet occurred in 1979, in part probably in response to discussions of a freeze on dredge size and number and in part in response to a desire to maximize harvest per unit of time in response to the management regime” (Keifer and Freese, 1981: p. 139).

While the choice of moritorium combined with little direct gear control was the politically feasible approach, equity considerations made the programme a most difficult one for the decision-makers involved. Both excluded fishermen and fishermen who express concern about access for their children and crew members made renewal of the moritorium an issue which has been approved with great apparent regret. On the other hand, participating fishermen also are highly critical of other portions of the plan intended to discourage effort levels, such as the limit on hours and days of the week in which fishing is permitted. Part of the criticism should be viewed as the inevitable reaction which occurs when growing resource demand finally places great pressure on attainment of resource-conservation goals and expanded regulations become necessary. People naturally rebel against any form of increase in regulation. The question, as reflected elsewhere in this paper and other papers prepared for this consultation, is what the proper role might be for licence limitation.


This paper began with a summary of certain propositions about limited entry which appeared to be fairly widely accepted in the United States and Canada in 1978. The bulk of the paper was devoted to a review of the scope of approaches taken in those two countries, the motivation for the approaches and a subjective evaluation of them in terms of economic efficiency, equity, resource conservation and political and administrative feasibility. This final section explores five themes which were emerging in 1978 and have been increasingly discussed since.

Extended Fishery Jurisdiction

Any group finds it difficult to gain acceptance for restricting use of a resource by its members when other groups are utilizing the same resource. This certainly has been the case with respect to coastal fisheries in North America. Both the United States and Canada followed the intent of most provisions of the United Nations Law of the Sea in asserting that extended jurisdiction was intended to establish resource conservation over fish populations which had become sadly depleted. Additional LOS treaty language, giving preference to coastal fishing nations, set the stage for de facto exclusive fishing access to several important fish stocks and access through bilateral or multilateral treaties for others. The perception of greater responsibility for the wise use of fish resources and greater opportunities to receive benefits from rationalization of fishery management is undoubtedly a critical factor in the careful reassessment of opportunities to use limited entry as a fishery management tool. In fishery after fishery, the decline of foreign participation is closely associated with interest in possible socio-economic rationalization of the fisheries.

In many areas, such as New England, so many fishery problems were attributed to the presence of foreign fishing fleets that the coming of extended jurisdiction created totally unrealistic expectations about improvement in fishing conditions. These expectations, abetted by public fishery development programmes and a naive acceptance of optimistic forecasts by various lending institutions, led to a rapid rate of growth in investment in the fishing industry during the late 1970s. As the over-capitalization became apparent, greater interest emerged in limited entry.

Fishery Development

Even though fishery development programmes, including low interest loans, are given a significant share of the blame for over-capitalization, these programmes stay in place largely for three reasons. First, the United States greatly resents being technologically backward in large portions of its fishing fleets with respect to other fishing nations. Thus, there is a strong desire to upgrade US fishing vessels to meet high technical standards. Second, where economic distress is currently observed, there is an understandable desire to cure these problems by identifying new fishing opportunities. If there are two many fishermen chasing species A and species B is being fished below its maximum sustainable yield, then there is a desire to entice fishermen to switch from A to B. Third, there is a strong commitment, not unrelated to the first two reasons, to reduce the foreign fishing fleet by replacing “them” with “us”.

To avoid creating over-capitalization through fishery development, promotional activities and low interest loans are subsidized only for fisheries which are thought not to be fully developed. However, the nature of flexible, multi-purpose vessels implies that they can be intended for use in one fishery but will still increase the capacity of other fisheries. The very capable, efficient vessels designed to replace foreign vessels in harvesting Pacific Whiting (hake) off the Oregon coast are important contributors to the utilization of rockfish populations which appear to be greatly overfished.

Multi-purpose and Multi-species Fisheries

Most, but not all of the licence limitation programmes described above relate either to one species or to a closely related set of species. For example, salmon licence limitation programmes relate to two or more of the five salmon species which occur significantly on the Pacific coast of North America. In several cases, introduction of limited entry programmes began with the replacement of general commercial fishing licences with newer, more complex licensing systems. New data-management systems also were created at that time.

In contrast to single-species fishery management programmes, a significant portion of United States and Canadian fishing fleets are multi-purpose operations. For example, of the 518 vessels with dungeness crab landings in Oregon in 1981, 410 also landed salmon, 185 landed albacore tuna, 87 landed shrimp, 36 landed groundfish, 161 landed both albacore and salmon as well as crab, 46 landed shrimp and albacore as well as crab, 28 landed groundfish and shrimp as well as crab, 11 landed groundfish and albacore as well as crab, and 10 landed groundfish, shrimp, albacore and crab. The point is that modern fishing vessels can participate in several fisheries and many do.

The multi-purpose character of fleets does not necessarily mean that the same limited entry programme should be applied to all. Some fisheries such as the dungeness crab fishery appears to rise and fall in long and relatively predictable cycles. Some fisheries have yields which vary little over time and still others (such as some salmon populations) vary widely from year to year but not in a predictable cycle. The best mix of traditional fishery management measures and limited entry programmes will depend upon many things including the desire by the fishing industry to avoid risk. The point is that analysis of limited entry programmes, fishery by fishery, will lead to errors including misunderstanding the effect of those programmes on economic efficiency and equity. Not only can analysis of limited entry be misleading through a failure to understand the multi-purpose character of a given gear type in a given area, but errors can occur from under-estimating the fishermen's ability to change gear types and areas when incentives are sufficiently strong.

Multi-species fisheries have also not been well analysed with respect to limited entry programmes. Limitation of effort to prevent over-fishing of some species inevitably leads to under-fishing of other species. This same trade-off is, of course, relevant for most single-species fisheries with significant sub-stocks. Licence limitation programmes in multi-species fisheries appear to meet significant resistance on political feasibility grounds and are vulnerable to equity arguments. Assessment against resource conservation and economic efficiency arguments is more straightforward but requires very careful analysis. At least some licence limitation proponents argue that a more professional fleet with be more competent in handling gear regulations designed to deal with multispecies problems. For example, the more skilled salmon trollers know how to deploy their gear to catch chinook salmon and avoid coho salmon, but others waste many coho during a special chinook-only season requiring the special gear.

Who is in Charge?

As licence limitation programmes have expanded along the Pacific coast, there has been a notable shift in the role played by fishermen. Programmes were initially designed by public agencies searching for new ways to reach resource conservation goals. Sometimes the arguments of economists were included, particularly when there was a clear view that licence limitation would also enhance economic efficiency. Fishermen were commonly hesitant and often violently opposed. Now fishermen are the advocates of licence limitation and have learned to adapt both proposals and process to meet political feasibility requirements. Government agencies provide technical advice and data but try to stay neutral on key policy decisions. Economists are also keeping a rather low profile - they are not certain that economic efficiency will not be enhanced but neither are they as certain of outcomes as they once were.

This high profile of fishermen in programme design not only enhances political feasibility but aids administrative feasibility. Economic efficiency is not likely to change much; indeed, many fishermen would reject this as an objective which should be emphasized. Attainment of resource conservation goals is as satisfactory here as it is with programmes initiated by agency personnel. The critical difference may well be due to a different approach toward equity.

Equity judgements often depend upon how one defines the groups which are being affected. Public participation is strongly stressed in defining political feasibility.

In the United States, public participation in fishery management consists of several elements. One is a series of public hearings in a relatively small number of fishing communities, where the feeling of the public is associated with the number of individuals who argue certain points, their ability to articulate their views and, sometimes, the number of people who applaud or make derogatory remarks as speakers make certain statements. A second consideration is the written record - this also relates to the number of written remarks and their persuasive power. Finally, elected or appointed members from fishermen's associations have additional opportunities to express their views.

None of these communication channels obviously reflects the general view of fishermen. Full-time fishermen are more likely to have their view-points emphasized than part-timers. High-income fishermen are also more likely to be heard. More emotional fishermen are more likely to be heard. Several other factors are also relevant. The important point is that shifting sole responsibility for design of any fishery management programme, but especially limited entry, to “the fishermen” is really to give some groups an advantage relative to others.

Limited entry will lead toward certain objectives only through sacrifice with respect to others. Since many of the important consequences are gains by some groups and either losses or smaller gains to other groups, careful attention to equity is required. Integral involvement of fishermen in design of fishery management measures will greatly enhance key objectives including political feasibility. However, if policy makers do not stay involved, all view-points will not be reflected. A cooperative approach may require new and innovative ways for fishery managers to stay in touch with all of the people affected by their decisions.


Acheson, J.M., 1975 Fisheries management and the social context: the case of the Maine lobster fishery. Trans.Am.Fish.Soc., 104:653–68

Adasiak, A., 1980 The Alaskan experience with limited entry. In Limited entry as a fishery management tool, edited by R.B. Rettig and J.J.C. Ginter. Seattle, University of Washington Press for Washington Sea Grant, pp. 271-99

Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 1981 Policy for Canada's Atlantic Fisheries in the 1980s: a discussion paper. Ottawa, Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 68 p.

Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 1982 Task Force on Atlantic Fisheries, issues and options. Ottawa, Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 18 p.

Crutchfield, J.A., 1979 Economic and social implications of the main policy alternatives for controlling fishing effort. J.Fish.Res.Board Can., 36(7):742–52

Keifer, D.R. and S.P. Freese, 1981 Comments on economic analysis and the management of Atlantic surf clams. In Economic analysis for fisheries management plans, edited by L.G. Anderson. Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Science, pp. 138-41

Morehouse, T.A. and G.W. Rogers, 1980 Limited entry in the Alaska and British Columbia salmon fisheries. Anchorage and Juneau, Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska, 291 p.

Mundt, J.C. (ed.), 1975 Limited entry into the commercial fisheries. Seattle, Institute for Marine Studies, University of Washington, 143 p.

Pearse, P.H., 1979 Symposium on policies for economic rationalization of commercial fisheries. J.Fish. Res.Board Can., 36(7):711–866

Pearse, P.H., 1982 Turning the tide: a new policy for Canada's Pacific Fisheries. Ottawa, Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, 292 p.

Rettig, R.B. and J.J.C. Ginter (eds), 1980 Limited entry as a fishery management tool. Seattle, University of Washington Press for Washington Sea Grant, 463 p.

Strand, I.E. Jr., J.E. Kirkley and K.E. McConnell, 1981 Economic analysis and the management of Atlantic surf clams. In Economic analysis for fisheries management plans, edited by L.G. Anderson. Michigan, Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Science, pp. 113–38

Appendix A Objectives for Limited Entry Programmes

Numerous objectives have been identified by those who have formulated limited entry programmes in the United States and Canada and those who analyse them. The following list is intended to be fairly complete but not exhaustive. Several overlap and may be duplicative:

  1. Maintain the economic viability of fishing units

  2. Maintain the economic viability of processing establishments

  3. Prevent the over-exploitation of fishery stocks:

    1. Prevent fishing pressure which could impair the reproductive capacity of any valuable species

    2. Avoid the capture of fish at ages and sizes such that the growth rate exceeds the natural mortality rate

  4. Reduce wastage of fish due to discards

  5. Improve vessel safety and comfort

  6. Promote the availability of quality seafood to the consumer

  7. Maximize the total net income of the fishing fleets

  8. Maximize the total net income of processors

  9. Maximize the net national income

  10. Provide for an orderly fleet expansion where capacity is less than optimum yield

  11. Provide for the wise and full utilization of fishery resources over time (conservation)

  12. Minimize costs of management, including data collection, research, administration and enforcement

  13. Increase the flexibility of the fishery management process

  14. Increase the flexibility of commercial and recreational fishermen and associated industry to conduct their affairs

  15. Enhance security (i.e., minimize instability due to government action)

  16. Minimize annual variability of industry income

  17. Maximize public revenues

  18. Simplify fishery management

  19. Maintain the integrity of data

  20. Bargaining power:

    1. Increase the bargaining power of fishermen vis-a-vis first buyers (usually processors)

    2. Increase the bargaining power of first buyers vis-a-vis fishermen

    3. Provide for a more competitive industry (reduce bargaining power of both fishermen and first buyers)

  21. Reduce negative attitude of fishermen toward management agencies

  22. Protect “our” fishermen from other groups (n-1 factorial objectives for n groups)

  23. Reduce indebtedness/increase the net worth of fishermen

  24. Provide for reasonable economic returns (a trade-off between increasing fishermen's incomes and creating an elite class)

  25. Avoid creation of special or elite status for a portion of the fishermen

  26. Provide for orderly fishing (a blend of conservation, enforcement costs, fishermen's costs and other objectives)

  27. Provide for an acceptable mix of individual, relative to corporate, ownership of vessels (often stated as minimizing corporate ownership, providing for ownership by natural persons only or avoiding processor control of ownership)

  28. Provide an equitable distribution of income (not the same as equal, consequently a highly elusive concept)

  29. Provide opportunities for technological improvement

  30. Increase the professionalization of the fleet (mixture of “methem”, product quality, vessel safety, management cost and other objectives)

  31. Increase the diversification of the fleet

  32. Achieve preferred balance of part-time versus full-time fishermen (again a complex mixture of other objectives)

  33. Minimize the dislocation of social groups

  34. Reduce user-group conflicts

  35. Freedom objectives:

    1. Maintain life-style objectives of fishermen, especially independence, challenge, lack of regimentation, being outdoors, sense of identity and pride in occupation

    2. Protect minority rights

    3. Maintain flexibility in choosing occupation, including target species, size and type of vessel and gear, geographical mobility and time of year to fish. This objective reflects both ease of entry and ease of exit.

  36. Equity (also relates to several listings above):

    1. Distribution of catch among groups must be considered fair. This is usually stated in terms of every year but sometimes applies to an average over a few years

    2. Allocation of access (seasons, gear restrictions, area closures, etc.) to different groups considered fair

    3. Processes leading to management options which affect different user groups considered fair

Appendix B
Concerns Expressed About Limited Entry Options

During discussions of limited entry alternatives in the United States and Canada, a number of concerns have been expressed. Those views which this author believes to be most substantive and/or most widely held have been discussed in the text above. This section summarizes many, but not all, of the argument in text and adds several more.

Licence Limitation

  1. Input stuffing (see Wilen, Pearse and Wilen - articles in Pearse, 1979).

  2. “Soft” programmes (California troll) actually encourage excess capacity and are counter-productive.

  3. Programmes which are not “soft” lead to significant court challenges and require a significant, troublesome and costly public presence (Alaska net salmon).

  4. Licence limitation in one fishery (e.g., Alaska king crab) will impede desired expansion of under developed fisheries (e.g., Alaska groundfish), given the multiple purpose design of vessels involved.

  5. Technological advance may be distorted (cf. (1)) in both the short and long run.

  6. Licence limitation is not expected to be flexible enough to accommodate changing values, abundance and availability of fish.

  7. Licence limitation is directly in conflict with the freedom of individuals:

    1. Is socialistic (communistic)
    2. Is un-American
    3. Is anti-free-enterprise

  8. Will lead to greater government control.

  9. Will lead to a new unwieldy bureacracy.

  10. Will cause a loss of traditional independence:

    1. Will cause a change in lifestyle

  11. Once adopted, it cannot be phased out.

  12. A few large firms will control fishing.

  13. Since licence limitation is used only after too many are “in”, those kept out or forced out will see the entry (exit) criteria as innately unfair.

  14. Discussion of licence limitation increases entry and causes unwise speculative upgrading (enlargement) of vessels to beat qualifying dates.

  15. Not needed for conservation (the only acceptable objective).

  16. Since entry capital (cost of licence) has increased, our sons and daughters are driven from a family tradition:

    1. Since, crew advancement is stymied and it becomes difficult to enlist crews

  17. Creates a Millionaire's Club.

  18. Licence limitation is solely a device to protect a politically influential group from interlopers and hence is an inappropriate action for federal support.

  19. Alaska licence limitation (detailed form) freezes technology.

  20. Mobility (a good thing) is reduced.

  21. A deep commitment to reduce effort levels is needed for more good than harm to occur; the vast majority of licence limitation programmes go no farther than freezing status-quo vessel numbers.

Royalties (Taxes)

  1. The FCMA severely restricts the ability of the federal government to impose fees.

  2. While States can and do impose poundage taxes, the relevant political processes are protracted and work only with great costs and a long-time lag.

  3. Recent fleet-switching behaviour studies confirm the arguments of anthropologists that changes in relative prices work rather weakly in changing short-run decision-making (although fishermen process such information quickly and rapidly revise their expectations), hence a second response lag will retard (the first being a lag due to a political-process response) the change in effort level, given a proposed change in taxes.

    Note (2 & 3):
    Since environmental variation will cause optimum effort to vary from year to year, and other lags (recognition, data analysis) exist, taxes are one of the least “flexible” tools available.

  4. Studies referred to in (3) also suggest that some groups of fishermen are capable of switching fisheries more rapidly than others. Hence, some fishermen groups will bear little economic hardship and others may be severely affected economically.

  5. Some limited entry is never discussed seriously until fisheries are over-capitalized and, since entry and exit are asymmetrical (the old putty-clay capital issue), very high levels of taxes would be required to reduce effort levels. Since limited entry is also not discussed until many fishermen have come on hard times, this leads to the “hit 'em while they're down” political objective:

    1. Since environmental variation requires lower effort at the same time landings are down, short-run variability in tax rates is also a “hit'em while they're down” Catch-22.

  6. Analysis of price controls in fisheries and elsewhere in the economy suggests that problems will continue to crop up as fishermen and processors learn how to beat the system:

    1. If ad valorem taxes are assessed on fishermen, one might anticipate decreased prices and increased bonuses, direct loans (and similar “grants”) to fishermen. If taxes vary from species to species, expect low prices and trip limits on controlled species and bonus prices for other species with an understanding that these buying arrangements hold only when limited species are supplied. If taxes are per-number or per-unit-weight, expect errors in reported species composition in sales. Avoidance of such practices will require significant enforcement costs.

    2. If taxes are assessed on processors, similar problems will emerge. State-to-State cooperation to provide timely management may be harder here than with management of fishermen, due to lack of experience of States in such cooperation.

  7. When revenues from taxes go into a general fund, the person paying the taxes is among the group with highest political standing with fishery decision-makers, while the beneficiary is a diffuse and often resented bureacracy. This further reduces its political viability. With this issue confronting fishery agencies vis-a-vis current proposals to collect “user fees” for Coast Guard services, fishery managers will not want to touch this can of worms.

  8. The incentive to under-report and mis-report landings impairs information needed for other fishery management objectives.

  9. Only large operators will have money to pay extra costs; little guys will be driven out of the fishery.

  10. This tool is not needed for conservation which is, after all, the only valid objective.

Individual Fisherman Quotas (stock certificates, shares)

  1. Since fish are res nullius, State and Governments do not own them in the same way Governments own trees. Hence, the public cannot cede rights to specific animals, only access and landing privileges.

  2. Since IFQs have been implemented in so few instances, Murphy's law will work with fury, i.e., we know that “there will be many a slip twixt the cup and the lip”.

  3. Also due to lack of experience with IFQs, adoption of such a novel programme would only be possible after a massive educational effort.

  4. IFQs will lead to greater government control:

    1. IFQs will lead to a new bucreacracy
    2. IFQs will cause a loss of traditional independence
    3. IFQs will force an unwanted change in lifestyle
    4. IFQs will restrict freedom

  5. A few large firms will capture control of fisheries through monopolizing IFQs.

  6. IFQs are not needed for conservation, hence are not needed.

  7. Value of IFQs increase startup capital costs, keeping sons and daughters out of the industry and reducing incentives for crew advancement, in turn making it difficult to hire crews.

  8. Information costs to manage fisheries become higher because fleet management is replaced by vessel management.

  9. In multi-species fisheries, fishermen will increase wastage (discards) when they have reached their IFQs on some species but not on others. In single-species fisheries, fishermen man increase discards if price or IFQ rules encourage a catch composition of larger size and/or higher quality.

  10. IFQs may require at-sea monitoring and enforcement which will be both unpopular and costly.

  11. IFQs will lead to a Millionaire's Club.

  12. IFQs will work only in fisheries which have overall quotas. Since overall quotas are not acceptable at all in pink shrimp, dungeness crab and albacore tuna fisheries, and since there is keen resistance to quotas in troll salmon, groundfish, and in the PFMC area for Pacific halibut, IFQs do not seem operational or at least of limited usefulness.

  13. If adoption of IFQs allows for an expanded season, enforcement would have to take place over a longer period of time and would, hence, become more costly.

  14. IFQs would appear to reduce risk. While most analysts interpret this as a benefit, some fishermen prefer a lottery with expected value, X1, to a sure outcome of X2, where X1 X2.

  15. IFQs create an incentive to under-report which will cause a deterioration in the data base needed for other management actions.

  16. Criteria for initial location of IFQs may create incentives to fish harder before the programme begins (i.e., an incentive is created to maximize eligibility for IFQs).

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