NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Overcoming the common pool problem through voluntary cooperation: the rise and fall of a fishery cooperative

Robert T. Deacon, Dominic P. Parker, Christopher Costello

NBER Working Paper No. 16339
Issued in September 2010
NBER Program(s):EEE

We analyze a seldom used, but highly promising form of rights-based management over common pool resources that involves the self-selection of heterogeneous fishermen into sectors. The fishery management regime assigns one portion of an overall catch quota to a voluntary cooperative, with the remainder exploited as a commons by those choosing to fish independently. Data from an Alaska commercial salmon fishery confirm our model's key predictions, that the co-op would facilitate the consolidation of fishing effort, coordination of harvest activities, sharing of information and provision of shared infrastructure. We estimate that the resulting rent gains were at least 25%. A lawsuit filed by two disgruntled independents led to the co-op's demise, an outcome also predicted by our model. Our analysis provides guidance for designing fishery reform that leads to Pareto improvements for fishermen of all skill levels, which suggests a structure that enables reform without losers.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w16339

Published: Robert Deacon, Dominic Parker, and Christopher Costello. Reforming fisheries: lessons from a self-selected cooperative. Journal of Law and Economics , 56:83–125, 2013.

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