US Professor strongly critical of ITQs

Published on March 25, 2009

Unimpressed by the debate on Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs), an American Economics professor calls conventional economic theories of rights-based management of fisheries both “dishonest” and “false”.

Daniel Bromley, Anderson-Bascom Professor of Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin at Madison, USA, was talking to a seminar in the Swedish Parliament on responsible fisheries policy and individual rights in fisheries management.

Professor Bromley said studies of different countries as to what works and what does not work concerning ITQs had made him strongly critical to the whole idea, which he claimed led governments away from their responsibility to protect the living resources in the sea.

He claimed that the concept that the ITQ system will encourage fishermen and industry to more actively manage the resources for the future out of self-interest is not based on science. The uncertainty rate is so high and the desired pay-back time is so short that the economic incentives for a stewardship approach, promised by the ITQ-theory, will not exist.Active participation can be achieved with other management systems, he added. Instead of speaking of “The Tragedy of the Commons”, we should speak of the tragedy of the unmanaged commons. Neither are ITQs a tool that deals with the problem of by-catches.

“Besides, why should the economic wealth of the ITQs be handed over to the fishery industry and fishermen free of charge?”, professor Bromley asked rhetorically. “And what happens if the system doesn’t work? The ITQs are a tool used within the liberal market economy, and if that system is to be applied, it should be applied to its full extent, with the logic consequence that the fishing industry and the fishermen should pay for the fishing rights”.

Unless safeguards have been specifically designed into the scheme from the beginning, once the wealth is given away, he pointed out, new policies are impossible unless the government buys back the wealth. Once the ITQs are implemented, exclusive rights are given to a small group and others are excluded. “This means a structural process of change in ownership that leads to disadvantages for the huge majorities and advantages for some few”, professor Bromley concluded.