Marylanders could have an easier time finding — and affording — local crabs this summer, a survey of the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population suggests.
There are more than 550 million blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay, an increase of more than a third over this time last year and one of the highest counts of the past two decades, according to state officials.
Maryland Blue Crabs are a classic example of a common pool resource. A local delicacy, Blue Crabs have historically been overharvested in the Chesapeake Bay due to open access of the water of the Chesapeake. If the Chesapeake were privately owned (which I am not advocating for, but using as an example of what proper management of the Blue Crab stock would look like), the private owner would harvest Blue Crabs in such a way as to ensure sustainable populations of crabs year after year. Because the Bay is not privately owned, but rather anyone can access the Bay and the Blue Crab fishery, race to extract crabs before their competitors. The result is low crab populations, high crab prices, and unhappy Baltimorons.
Here's a graph from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science representing Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab harvest since 1990:
A noticeable trend. Part of that trend is due to overfishing, but part is due to regulation of the fishery. In order to grow Blue Crab populations, and increase harvests, it is necessary to regulate the fishery to restrict harvests. The irony in restricting harvest is that it will eventually increase harvest. Absent regulation, the sustainable Blue Crab harvest is low (and possibly zero), because open-access overfishing will lead to smaller populations and smaller growth rates. With regulation, the crab population can be maintained at higher levels, thus increasing the potential annual harvest.
That seems to be what is going on now:
[State officials] credit favorable weather and past harvest restrictions for a second straight year of strong crab population growth.
"We fully anticipate a robust crab season this year," said Dave Blazer, fisheries survey director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
And of course with good news comes calls to loosen harvest restrictions:
Officials plan to explore whether the increasing numbers should prompt regulators to loosen harvest restrictions or lengthen the crabbing season.
"We are in a much better place than we were," said Thomas Miller, director of the state's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons. But he said the crab population isn't yet "up to consistent levels of abundance that will support a sustainable fishery into the long term."
State Natural Resources officials plan to confer with watermen, conservationists and other stakeholders to consider whether changes to the length of the crabbing season or limits on harvesting female crabs are warranted. Watermen are generally limited in how many female crabs they can harvest, and they're prohibited from harvesting any females late in the season.
Chance said watermen welcome those discussions. They have accepted new restrictions in the past with the understanding that regulations could be loosened if crab populations rebounded, he said.
Scientists, though, said changes should come only after a careful analysis. They say people shouldn't assume the survey numbers mean the crab population can handle a bigger harvest. In 2012, for example, surveys showed a record number of juvenile crabs, but so many of them died it didn't translate into a long-term population boom.
"We have to understand whether this brings the population ... above a threshold which suggests it's no longer overfished," said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
In coming weeks, state scientists will continue to analyze the data gathered in the survey.
Nevertheless, increasing populations may mean that economists have it right, and regulating the commons to maximize long term economic profit will actually increase Blue Crab populations more than biologists and conservationists would recommend. Afterall, as John said back in 2005: Economists are better fish conservationists than biologists. As John put it:
So, imagine an unregulated fishery. Boats fish until there is no more profit to be earned. This occurs when the catch, revenues, and stock of fish are at low points. Fishers don't make much money. Biologists try to improve on this by regulating for the "maximum sustainable yield" (MSY) MSY is the maximum catch that can occur every year. In effect, MSY maximizes revenues.
When economists enter the picture they scratch their heads and wonder why biologists regulate to maximize revenues instead of profits. In other words, why do biologists ignore the costs of fishing? Economists promote the "optimal sustainable yield" (OSY) where the effort level is set where the difference between revenues and costs is maximized. As it turns out, the OSY effort level is usually below the MSY effort level. Lower effort leads to less catch and healthier fish stocks.
That is why I think I can get away with saying that economists are better fish conservationists than biologists.
The new Publication of Enduring Significance Award recognizes articles published in Marine Resource Economics that are important for contemporary researchers and other literature that is built on them, or that remain relevant for current policy issues. Two articles were selected to receive the first award; both articles were ahead of their time and continue to be relevant to current policy issues.
“Market Interactions between Aquaculture and the Common-Property Commercial Fishery,” by James L. Anderson and published in Marine Resource Economics, Volume 2, Issue 1 (1985), won for establishing conceptual links between farm-raised fish and capture fisheries, deriving the implications of growth in aquaculture for wild fish stocks using an elegant bioeconomic model and anticipating the importance of the aquaculture industry for global seafood markets.
“Marine Reserves for Fisheries Management,” by Daniel S. Holland and Richard J. Brazee and published in Marine Resource Economics, Volume 11, Issue 3 (1996), won for launching the economics literature on marine reserves for fisheries management, accurately situating marine reserves as a second-best policy, clearly framing the inter-temporal tradeoffs involved in forming marine reserves, and anticipating most of the issues that subsequent literature explored in greater detail.
Award-winners are selected from the archive of articles published at least eight years ago in any of the journal’s three sections: “Articles,” “Perspectives,” and “Thalassorama.” When a winner is selected, the award is announced every other year in the journal’s second (April) issue.
David Carter, Scott Crosson, and Christopher Liese in PLOS ONE:
We introduce a regression approach that uses information on fishery-related internet search volume to provide more timely intraseasonal predictions of recreational harvest. There is a growing literature showing that the internet search volume on a particular topic (e.g., unemployment insurance) can be used to predict current levels of policy-relevant variables (e.g., unemployment rates) . Importantly, these predictions are not forecasts of future conditions, but rather “nowcasts” of current conditions. In the words of Choi and Varian  the goal is to “predict the present.” Nowcasting has value because traditional methods of compiling statistics from surveys or official records takes time. Any lag between the time that decision makers need information and the time that the information is available increases uncertainty, which increases the risk of poor decision making. If nowcasting can reduce this uncertainty, the quality of decisions can be improved [5–9]. Nowcasting attempts to arrive at an estimate sooner, but in no way replaces traditional methods, which remain the standard against which nowcasts are judged and continuously re-calibrated.
We demonstrate the harvest nowcasting approach with the Gulf of Mexico recreational red snapper fishery. This fishery has been particularly difficult to manage with progressively shortening seasons in the presence of changes in effort and an increasing average fish size. The recreational sector has overharvested red snapper in every year from 2007 to 2013 with the exception of 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill forced a mandatory closure of prime fishing grounds during the busy summer season.
NOAA fisheries forecasts recreational harvest of red snapper and other key species several months in advance in order to set fishing seasons . Forecasts are based on trends in historical catch rates and fish weight by fishing sector (private, for-hire). The agency does not regularly monitor the harvest of red snapper within the season because the season is shorter than the data reporting period. However, there have been times when managers reopened the fishery later in the year. In these cases there was a need for information on the cumulative level of harvest before the harvest data were available. For example, in 2013 following a new stock assessment, the recreational quota increased after the summer season closed and there was an interest in re-opening the season in the fall. In this case, there was a need to determine whether the new quota had been exceeded during the original season. Our proposed approach is designed to warn fishery managers of pending quota overages within the year by nowcasting harvest using a regression model including data on internet searches during the summer months when fishing activity peaks.
This may be a big contribution to a huge problem, at least for popular species. Imagine a recreational fishing harvest quota. The NMFS estimates harvest from the MRIP creel survey in two month waves over the fishing season. Data collection, entry and analysis takes time (especially relative to commercial fishing statistics with centralized reporting at dockside). By the time the NMFS figures out that the recreational quota has been it plenty of time has gone by so that the quota might be significantly exceeded.
Here is an image of the impressive results:
Here is the reference:
Carter DW, Crosson S, Liese C (2015) Nowcasting Intraseasonal Recreational Fishing Harvest with Internet Search Volume. PLoS ONE 10(9): e0137752.
The Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics (my department) in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (my college) at The Ohio State University (my university) is hiring for four new faculty positions--and I am not ashamed of taking advantage of this blog to promote the positions. If you have (or are close to earning) a PhD with interests in agricultural economics, environmental economics, regional economics, development economics or some combination of those fields along with other interests, then we can probably align your interests with one of our four positions.
Assistant or Associate Professor in Global Economic Modeling: a tenure-track assistant/associate professor position in the area of global economic modeling and integrated assessment. Economic modeling approaches of particular interest include dynamic optimization and computable general equilibrium modeling, as well as familiarity with approaches for handling decision making under uncertainty. Individuals with experience integrating economic models with physical/biological models are encouraged to apply.
Assistant Professor in Agribusiness: a tenure-track assistant professor with teaching and research responsibilities in agribusiness. Applicants with interests in agricultural markets and marketing, finance, supply and demand analysis, industrial organization, international trade or agricultural and food policy, that complement a primary interest in agribusiness are encouraged to apply.
Assistant or Associate Professor in Sustainable Development and Economy: an assistant/associate professor, tenure-track position to develop an internationally recognized program of research and teaching focused on sustainable development and the trade-offs among economic development, social equity and environmental protection in international or regional contexts. Areas of interest include, but are not limited to: economic growth; equity; resource use; technological change; socio-ecological systems; sustainable and resilient communities.
Click on the links for full descriptions and application info.
Browsing through the streaming videos available on Amazon Prime last night, I came across a documentary series called "wetheeconomy." I'm probably slow to the party but the series features a series of short (5-10 minute) documentaries introducing basic economic topics like supply and demand, measuring GDP, what is money,... Of particular interest to this blog, one of the documentaries is titled "A Bee's Invoice: The Hidden Value in Nature," which is designed to answer the question: Are natural resources vital to the economy?
The environmental economist in me is excited to see environmental valuation included in Chapter 1 of a series introducing a wide array of economic topics. Maybe, this whole environmental economics thing is gaining some traction.
The jealous, rapidly aging human in me is jealous that the film features appearances by two economists, both of whom have interacted on our blog, and neither of whom is named Whitehead or Haab. Anyway, nice work Gernot Wagner and Jodi Beggs* in promoting the cause. I presume they were chosen because the producers thought John and I were unavailable--either that or they wanted younger faces to attract a different demographic than the epitome of boring middle-class soccer/baseball dads.
Advancing Marine Policy Toward Ecosystem-Based Management by Eliciting Public Preferences (pp. 261-275) Sophal Chhun, Viktoria Kahui, Henrik Moller, and Paul Thorsnes Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/681052
Time for Fishing: Bargaining Power in the Swedish Baltic Cod Fishery (pp. 315-329) Johan Blomquist, Cecilia Hammarlund, and Staffan Waldo DOI: 10.1086/680729 Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/680729
"This blog aims to look at more of the microeconomic ideas that can be used toward environmental ends. Bringing to bear a large quantity of external sources and articles, this blog presents a clear vision of what economic environmentalism can be."
Don't believe what they're saying
And allow me a quick moment to gush: ... The env-econ.net blog was more or less a lifeline in that period of my life, as it was one of the few ways I stayed plugged into the env. econ scene. -- Anonymous
... the Environmental Economics blog ... is now the default homepage on my browser (but then again, I guess I am a wonk -- a word I learned on the E.E. blog). That is a very nice service to the profession. -- Anonymous
"... I try and read the blog everyday and have pointed it out to other faculty who have their students read it for class. It is truly one of the best things in the blogosphere." -- Anonymous