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Does size matter? An assessment of quota market evolution and performance in the Great Barrier Reef fin-fish fishery

James Innes, CSIRO Oceans and Atmospheres Flagship
Olivier Thébaud, CSIRO Oceans and Atmospheres Flagship; Ifremer, UMR M101, AMURE, Unité d'Économie Maritime; Adjunct Professor with the School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology
Ana Norman-López, CSIRO Oceans and Atmospheres Flagship
L. Richard Little, CSIRO Oceans and Atmospheres Flagship


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In fisheries managed using individual transferable quotas (ITQs) it is generally assumed that quota markets are well-functioning, allowing quota to flow on either a temporary or permanent basis to those able to make best use of it. However, despite an increasing number of fisheries being managed under ITQs, empirical assessments of the quota markets that have actually evolved in these fisheries remain scarce. The Queensland Coral Reef Fin-Fish Fishery (CRFFF) on the Great Barrier Reef has been managed under a system of ITQs since 2004. Data on individual quota holdings and trades for the period 2004-2012 were used to assess the CRFFF quota market and its evolution through time. Network analysis was applied to assess market structure and the nature of lease-trading relationships. An assessment of market participants’ abilities to balance their quota accounts, i.e., gap analysis, provided insights into market functionality and how this may have changed in the period observed. Trends in ownership and trade were determined, and market participants were identified as belonging to one out of a set of seven generalized types. The emergence of groups such as investors and lease-dependent fishers is clear. In 2011-2012, 41% of coral trout quota was owned by participants that did not fish it, and 64% of total coral trout landings were made by fishers that owned only 10% of the quota. Quota brokers emerged whose influence on the market varied with the bioeconomic conditions of the fishery. Throughout the study period some quota was found to remain inactive, implying potential market inefficiencies. Contribution to this inactivity appeared asymmetrical, with most residing in the hands of smaller quota holders. The importance of transaction costs in the operation of the quota market and the inequalities that may result are discussed in light of these findings.

Key words

catch shares; Great Barrier Reef; line fishery; market efficiency; social network analysis; transaction costs

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