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Events & Media - Bren-MSI Fisheries Study Top-Rated in Nature

Bren-Marine Science Institute Fisheries Paper Chosen as Best Research of 2008 by Nature

Nature, one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world, has chosen a paper lead-authored by Bren School economics professor Christopher Costello as its top research highlight for 2008. The paper, based on a study published in the Sept. 19, 2008, issue of Science, showed that an innovative fisheries management strategy called “catch shares” can reverse fisheries collapse. It was co-authored by Costello; Steven Gaines, director of UCSB’s Marine Science Institute; and John Lynham, assistant professor at the University of Hawaii.


One form of catch shares is "individual transferable quotas" (ITQs), which give individual fishermen ownership rights stake in a set percentage of a fishery's overall catch quota.

“ITQs avoid the misaligned incentives of the ‘tragedy of the commons’ whereby people plunder resources as quickly as possible. The quotas divide a limited total catch exclusively among fishermen who work a fishery, and allow them to sell the rights to their share. Because the value of these shares increases with the overall productivity of the fishery, each fisherman has an incentive to manage it well. Costello’s team found that the proportion of ITQ-managed fisheries that had collapsed by 2003 was half that of the non-ITQ fisheries.”

“It’s extremely gratifying for our research to be recognized by the Nature team,” Costello said of the paper's selection.“This is certainly not the last word. Among other groups, we are refocusing attention on the design and broader effects of catch-share systems. We hope that our research on catch shares will spur additional analysis of the effects of institutions on fisheries performance, and environmental performance more broadly. Such analysis could form the basis for important policy changes at the economy/environment interface.”

Note to editors: For more information, contact Christopher Costello at (805) 893-5802, or e-mail him at costello@bren.ucsb.edu.