The Economic Benefits of Fisheries Management: The Case of Western Channel Sole

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Case Study #8-5 of the Program: ''Food Policy For Developing Countries: The Role Of Government In The Global Food System''


Sole (Solea Solea) is a valuable flatfish species that lives partly buried in sandy bottoms in the western part of the English Channel. Because of fairly high catch levels, stock size has fallen substantially since the late 1970s. Between 1979 and 2007, the spawning stock biomass (SSB) fell by about 40 percent, from 5,400 tonnes to 2,300 tonnes. This decline represents a substantial disinvestment in the stock. There are also indications that the stock is being harvested unsustainably. A dynamic bioeconomic analysis showing optimal net returns or rents from the fishery points to the need for a substantial investment in the stock, with the exact magnitude depending on the discount rate. For a discount rate of 3.5 percent, as recommended by the UK Treasury for public investments, the optimal stock level is 5,114 tonnes. Essentially, then, this recommendation involves rebuilding the stock to its level before the start of the depletion process at the end of the 1970s. How quickly the optimal stock level is reached depends on how much is harvested during the rebuilding period and how productive the stock is. This case study considers four policy options for the sole fishery. One option is to allow the situation prior to the implementation of the European Commission's management plan to continue. In this case, the stock may be driven to near extinction over the next few years. Three alternatives for stock recovery are also considered. One alternative is based on the European Commission's recently adopted management plan for sole. The next alternative involves an annual total allowable catch of 500 tonnes until the optimal stock level is reached. Finally, the fastest approach involves a moratorium on the harvest until the optimal stock level is achieved. Depending on which alternative is chosen, the optimal stock level will be reached between 2011 and 2020, when higher annual catches will be possible on a sustainable basis. The sole stock is harvested by fishers from the United Kingdom, Belgium, and France, with the United Kingdom having a 59 percent share. The most important fleet segment consists of beam trawlers. As part of a rebuilding program for the stock, this fleet will need to be restructured. Given the different options for a management plan, which one would you choose, taking into account both the different values of the resource rent and the social costs of reducing fishing effort in the implementation phase? Imagine now that the fishery was in a least-developed country, that the data on the fish stock were highly incomplete, and that the government would have great difficulty in actually reducing the fishing effort. How would this influence your policy choice? What alternative or complementary measures would you suggest?

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10 pp.

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Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences

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Trond Bjørndal (2009). Case Study #8-5, ''The Economic Benefits of Fisheries Management: The Case of Western Channel Sole''. In: Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Fuzhi Cheng (editors), ''Food Policy for Developing Countries: Case Studies.''10 pp.

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