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Individual transferable quotas and conservation: a critical assessment

James Acheson, University of Maine
Spencer Apollonio
James Wilson, University of Maine


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Individual transferable quotas (ITQs) have become a popular management tool for fisheries. They have been promoted in some quarters and seriously criticized in others because of their social and economic impacts. A more serious problem is that ITQs provide exclusive access to public resources presumably in return for some public benefit, namely conservation; however, in a high percentage of cases they do not conserve fish stocks. In this article, we focus on the reasons that ITQs do not conserve stocks. We point to a number of phenomena identified in the literature as affecting stocks of fish, including problems with total allowable catch (TAC), ecological hierarchy theory, r and K species, the Allee effect, scale and metapopulation structure, the need to have selective gear, and the continuation of roving bandit incentives. Despite their growing popularity with managers, ITQs do not solve any of these problems. We argue there may be better ways to manage. One possibility is what we call parametric management.

Key words

fisheries management; individual transferable quota; ITQs; quota management

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087