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An economic evaluation of management strategies for the Tasmanian Rock Lobster fishery

Gardner, C 2012 , 'An economic evaluation of management strategies for the Tasmanian Rock Lobster fishery', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis summarises research on the use of economic approaches in management
decision making in the Tasmanian rock lobster fishery. Lobster fisheries globally tend to be
well researched and data-rich yet economics is not widely integrated in the management
process. This is surprising given that they supply a luxury food market and the entire supply
chain is focussed on economic benefit. Lobster fisheries also tend be resilient to recruitment
overfishing (Pollock, 1993), which means the basic management objective of biological
sustainability tends to be easily met so there is scope to consider other goals of management.
The use of economics in lobster fishery management is reviewed for fisheries globally.
In some lobster fisheries, economic benefit is formally measured and reported as “sustainable
economic yield”, which is the long-run, sustainable revenue from harvests minus the costs of
harvesting. Reporting of economic yield does not always imply the use of this data in
management decision processes, however there are cases where maximum economic yield
(MEY) is used as a formal target including in Australian and New Zealand fisheries for
Panulirus cygnus, P. ornatus and Jasus edwardsii. Bioeconomic models that combine stock,
cost and price information are now being used in lobster fisheries including P. interruptus, P.
argus, P. cygnus, J. edwardsii and Homarus americanus to evaluate regulations such as catch
limits, season length, gear limits, and type. Economic theory has also been influential in the
evolution of management systems used to constrain catch, in particular through the increased
use of market-based and rights-based systems. These systems aim to provide incentives and
mechanisms for the transfer of catch to more efficient operators and reward for conservative
stock management that protects future harvests. Economic approaches can be used to resolve
resource sharing issues in lobster fisheries with most research dealing with recreational and
commercial interactions.
A bioeconomic analysis of the Tasmanian rock lobster Jasus edwardsii fishery was
conducted using a length- and sex-based model. The model was spatially and temporally
structured to account for differences in costs of fishing and price. The analysis concluded
that the current total allowable commercial catch (TACC) was too high to maximise
economic yield and left the industry vulnerable to temporal changes in productivity.
Alternative pathways to lower TACCs were explored but although these affected economic
yield, differences were minor. Despite operating under ITQ management for over a decade, the presence of tradeable catch shares was insufficient for industry to motivate changes in the
TACC to target MEY. Industry and government were motivated to exercise stewardship, in
terms of acting to prevent stock collapse, but were reluctant to accept that economic yield and
asset values could increase with lower catches. This bioeconomic analysis of different
harvest strategies proved valuable in this debate, demonstrating a need for formal economic
analysis as part of the suite of information used for setting TACCs even with the incentives
provided by ITQs.
The bioeconomic modeling approach was also used to examine the feasibility of a
novel approach to increase productivity in the Tasmanian rock lobster fishery, which was to
translocate lobsters from slow growth areas to faster growth areas. Change in stocks in
response to translocation was assessed in comparison to the change in TACC that would be
required to produce the same effect. These operations appeared viable with strongly positive
net present value. When combined with quota management, a translocation of 100,000
lobsters per annum improved most performance measures on a similar scale as would be
achieved by a reduction in the total allowable catch of around 10%. This conclusion held
broadly across total biomass, legal sized biomass, biomass of large lobsters (>145 mm CL),
catch rates and egg production. Economic outcomes were summarised using the discounted
cash flow method. Market capitalization of quota units was currently estimated at $210
million (10507 units @ $20,000). Ongoing translocations would be expected to increase
catch rates so that costs would decline for the same revenue. The discounted cash flow effect
of this change on market capitalisation was estimated at an increase of $47.4 million ($4515
per unit).
The research presented here led to management reform in the Tasmanian rock lobster
fishery. New performance measures and target reference points were developed and adopted
by Government, which now target MEY. The industry voted for lower TACCs on the basis
of the bioeconomic model outputs presented here and by March 2012 had led to recovery in
catch rates, increase in quota lease price, and increase in quota asset values ($84 million
increase in market capitalisation). Translocation has been adopted for a commercial scale
trial (100,000 lobsters per annum) with the first release occurring in February 2012. This was
funded by industry through a voluntary increase in their license fee, in response to the
research presented here.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Gardner, C
Keywords: bioeconomics, rock lobster, fisheries management, translocation, MEY, Jasus edwardsii
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