Swedish seminar on Individual Fishing Rights

Published on November 17, 2005

On 9 November, the Swedish Institute for Food and Agricultural Economics (SLI) in Lund hosted a seminar to discuss different management options for Swedish fisheries, with a focus on individual fishing rights and quotas. It was aimed at an audience concerned with fisheries management in Sweden, but presentations were given by Swedish as well as international experts.

Seminar hosted by SLI

SLI is a government institute working to bridge the gap between science and decision makers. The main objective of the SLI is to provide socio-economic analysis, in order to give creative guidance to official government on resource use. It deals with areas such as agriculture, food, animal protection, animal health, trade, fisheries and environment. Fishery economics is one of the latest subjects and has been a focus for three years now.

Individual fishing rights or quotas can be defined as an individual’s right to catch a given amount of fish, a share of the Total Allowable Catch (TAC), or the right to use a given quantity of input (i.e. fishing effort). The rights or quotas can be transferable or non-transferable. In the case of Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQ:s), fishing vessel owners can sell or buy quota certificates or, in some cases, lease quota shares.

Swedish fisheries are managed under the EU’s Common Fishery Policy (CFP) by regulations covering, for example, effort, catch quotas, minimum mesh sizes, closed seasons and areas. Currently, ITQs or other types of individual or collective rights are used by some Member States, but the system varies and the practice is not widespread.

Most fishermen at sea lack the equivalent of property rights. If they had property rights, would they then maintain a large and productive fish stock and adjust their fleet capacity to match the resources, with more sustainable fisheries management as a result? That was the key question around which the presentations were supposed to be revolving.


Hans Frost at the Food and Resource Economics Institute in Denmark delivered the first presentation, which highlighted problems in the EU fisheries from an economic perspective. He evaluated the extent to which the CFP conforms to the basics of modern bioeconomics. He was followed by Anthony Cox from OECD, who gave a presentation on “International experience of individual quotas: Success or failure?”. In general, OECD has found individual quotas to be successful, since they are directed towards maximizing the economic efficiency of resource use. They have also found that transferable quotas are beneficial in facilitating long-term adjustments with respect to investments and fishing capacity.

However, Anthony Cox suggested that the suitability of individual quotas may differ depending on the size of the fisheries. For example, community quotas and individual transferable effort quotas may be appropriate for small-scale fisheries for local consumption and characterized by a large number of operators. Individual transferable quotas on the other hand, may be more appropriate for large-scale and industrial fisheries. OECD will soon publish a report on the subject called “Using market mechanisms to manage fisheries: smoothing the path”. Click here for other reports published by OECD on this subject.

Patrik Persson from the National Board of Fisheries made a presentation called “Current trends in Swedish fisheries management” where he presented a proposal for a new system for the Swedish pelagic fishery. In short, this system aims at optimising the pelagic fishery and making it more profitable, while at the same time reducing overcapacity. This new strategy has been proposed by the industry, and the proposal was sent to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Consumer Affairs in October 2005. Click here to view the report in Swedish.

Niels Vestergaard from the University of Southern Denmark talked on the topic “How can fisheries management solve the problem of biological sustainability?”. The presentation was revolving around the question: How and to what extent shall we conserve the marine environment? Niels concluded that financial arguments can be made for sustainable development, meaning that sustainable ecology and economy walk hand in hand.