I spent January 29 and 30 at the Sheraton Silver Spring participating in this Workshop (where there were a lot of great presentations from NMFS economists). I was given 10 minutes to talk on the "Panel Discussion on Management Needs, Future Directions." I tried to make four points (which is pretty much my research agenda if I can ever focus on NMFS data).
1. Increased use of existing MRIP data is needed
The councils need fairly mundane valuation models, tailored geographically, for management decisions. A basic NRUM with species groups with the most recent MRIP data would be a major advancement. It would provide information on the value of catch that could be used in discussion of recreational quota, bag limits, etc. There is a lot of data, it is generally good (in the most basic sense), and it is underutilized.
2. Choice experiments are not a panacea for contingent valuation
NMFS has become reliant on choice experiment surveys for valuation. The major benefit of choice experiments in the marine recreational fishing context is that they are good for valuing individual characteristics of the fishing trip and getting information on the no trip option. Other than their great expense, the drawbacks of using choice experiments in the recreational fishing context is not well known.
Choice experiments haven’t faced the scrutiny of CVM surveys. In my opinion, they quickly rose to prominence as an alternative to CVM in the 1990s by assertion. I say that because choice experiments potentially face the same sort of problems as CVM (e.g., anchoring, ordering, scope, etc) but the profession has not demanded examination of these issues.
CVM surveys have been shown to suffer from anchoring bias, ordering effects and incentive incompatibility in multiple choice questions. The reaction has been to ask a single question. Similar effects have been found with choice experiments with no apparent reaction. Only a few studies have considered these problems with choice experiments.
CVM surveys have been criticized for passing internal scope tests but not split-sample external scope tests. The reaction has been to disparage CVM applications that don’t pass external scope tests. With the exception of a few studies, choice experiments routinely pass internal scope tests with no criticism that these are weaker tests.
The use of choice experiments by the NMFS is to be commended. But more recognition of their challenges is warranted.
3. Major improvements can be the MRIP with simple add-on surveys
MRIP asks for the number of trips taken within the state of intercept. The linked model can be used to assess changes in catch and site access on the overall number of trips. But this is inconsistent with the RUM because the RUM does not have an opt-out alternative. A negative change in fishing characteristics would cause trips to reallocate to other sites, modes and target species while the overall number of trips stays the same.
Simulating the effect of these negative changes in a linked model is inconsistent and biases the estimate of the change in the number of trips. The bias cannot be signed due to the forcing of trips. If no trip would be preferred and the angler is required through simulation to travel elsewhere then the bias is positive (i.e., too many trips would result from the linked model simulation). If the angler would prefer a trip to another site then the bias is negative (i.e., too few trips would result from the linked model simulation).
The basic RUM would greatly benefit from two additional pieces of data in add-on surveys:
A CVM question that asks if the most recent trip were $X higher, would you still have taken the trip? This would provide an opt-out option for modeling changes in the number of trips and/or,
Site specific RP trip data would allow for estimation of a repeated RUM (e.g., this was done in the 1997 SE add-on).
Both of these questions are relatively easy to implement in a short add-on survey. My guess is that this would be much cheaper than the choice experiment surveys.
Another extension is to ask contingent behavior (SP) follow-up questions. Contingent behavior trip questions are also cheap to design and feasible to implement. Questions about changes in bag and size limits, trip cost and expected catch would be valuable.
4. Joint estimation of MRIP and NMFS choice experiment data would strengthen both models
It isn’t clear if the coefficient on the cost variable in choice experiments is similar to the RUM travel cost estimate, which is probably more reliable (if it is measured accurately). Since the catch value is an inverse function of the cost coefficient, a biased cost coefficient could have large effects. It should be straightforward to combine the MRIP data to the NMFS choice experiment data and jointly estimate the model to determine if the cost coefficients are different. This was the point made by Adamowicz et al. (1994) in JEEM that helped launch choice experiments in environmental economics but joint estimation of choice experiment and revealed preference data has largely been ignored since.
Also, simple preference questions can be jointly estimated with MRIP data. Single questions on the 1997 Southeast and 1998 Pacific add-on MRFSS economic surveys could be used to jointly estimate management preferences.
Jusst an example of why open access fisheries need to be regulated (and are expensive to regulate):
In one of the largest oyster cases in recent years, the Maryland Natural Resources Police Wednesday night arrested a Virginia truck driver and seized a tractor-trailer filled with oysters, many of them undersized...
This is the halfway point of Maryland’s six-month oyster harvesting season, a time when poachers tend to seek out undersized oysters to make up for the increasing scarcity of the resource.
Since the start of the season in October, NRP has been conducting saturation patrols by boat and aerial surveillance from Maryland State Police helicopters with long-range cameras. In addition, the agency is making full use of its newest tool, a system of radar units and cameras called the Maritime Law Enforcement Information Network, MLEIN, which allows officers to track vessels and “see” over the horizon.
MLEIN has been used to make several oyster poaching cases so far this season, said Col.
The 2010 Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan, fostered by Governor Martin O’Malley, contains a robust enforcement component to protect the resource, habitat and sanctuaries.
“When the Governor initiated his oyster recovery plan, enforcement was a key component to assure the public that its investment would be protected,” Johnson said. “Stepped-up patrols, MLEIN and information from the public, helps us keep our promise to everyone who loves the Chesapeake Bay and its bounty, and believes in its future. Poachers are learning that there is nowhere to hide.”
It is a shame that the partial government shutdown has some innocent casualties:
The nation’s king-crab fishing fleet, prepared to deploy off the coast of southwest Alaska for the start of a season that supplies holiday tables and restaurants around the world, was instead stalled in port on Tuesday by the federal government shutdown.
Crews and captains that in ordinary times would have been dropping their crab pots at precisely noon in Bristol Bay, 4,000 miles from the nation’s capital, were cooling their heels in places like Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands, waiting, watching the news and hoping for a break.
The federal workers needed to process the permits for each boat’s catch quota were on furlough. ...
Representative Don Young, a 21-term Republican from Alaska, has been among a group of legislators trying to free up personnel to get the paperwork processed. Last week, Mr. Young, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Representative Doc Hastings of Washington, also Republicans, sent a letter to the secretary of commerce, Penny Pritzker, saying that since crab industry fees pay for federal management of the fishery, federal managers should properly be on job, not on furlough.
Mr. Young said in a telephone interview that he had tried to follow up, but that Commerce Department phones were mostly going unanswered in the shutdown.
The other day I suggested that there is a role for government in avoiding tragedy of the commons and I still think that. I haven't seen any angry free market environmentalisteconomist in the news claiming that we should just open the oceans, tragedy-style, but I might bet it has happened. Any links? I'd like to give it a read.
Abstract: In this paper we measure the recreational economic benefits of the for-hire recreational fishery in the coastal region of North Carolina. We estimate a single trip random utility model for primary purpose and secondary purpose anglers with data from a field survey of charter and head-boat passengers. We find that primary and secondary purpose anglers exhibit significantly different behavior with regards to cost. However, once costs are weighted for secondary purpose anglers the value of catch is not statistically different across groups. For primary purpose anglers, the willingness to pay per trip is between $1800 and $2000 for one additional billfish (per angler), between $55 and $65 for one additional coastal migratory pelagic fish, $39 for one additional mackerel, and the willingness to pay per trip for an additional snapper-grouper is between $61 and $94. The net economic value for a charter boat trip averages $624 per angler per trip, and net economic value for a head boat trip is $102 per angler per trip.
Last week I quickly posted the NMFS's announcement of this policy experiment without much explanation and then ran off to Kentucky to visit friends and family. Several months earlier I had signed a letter of support [pdf], along with a number of economists, that provides a bit of explanation (I was sure that I had posted this letter back then but searching the archives has suggested otherwise):
As economists working in the field of environmental and natural resource economics, we are writing to offer our support for the Gulf Headboat Cooperative' s application for an exempted fishing permit ( EFP) to test a new approach to managing recreational for -hire fishing. We would like to offer our support from both the perspective of its merit in contributing to the state of knowledge in fisheries economics and in improving the quality of information for fisheries management in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.
The objective of this pilot is to analyze how headboats adapt in a regime where, instead of being constrained by uncertainty about season closure, their catch allocation is secure, they have flexibility to book trips through the year, and they can plan, market, and fish accordingly. The pilot has substantial potential to improve the state of knowledge in both the academic and management communities of the effects of changes in management on the for-hire sector. Such knowledge is increasingly needed in mixed -use fisheries with a large recreational component. While there is a small amount of conceptual modeling in this area and some existing data outlining the current economic and social context of for -hire fisheries, there remains precious little policy experience to guide decision making. Experience in commercial fisheries demonstrates that fishing cooperatives can successfully meet the economic and biological objectives of fisheries management. However, extrapolation from commercial fisheries is of limited applicability given the unique economic structure and incentives reflected in this mixed commercial /recreational fishery and the headboat sector' s unique role in coastal economies. The state of knowledge would be greatly enhanced by purposeful, targeted data collection and evaluation in anticipation of important management changes.
The EFP reflects collaboration between fishermen and academic partners to establish exactly such a protocol. The impacts are of clear importance to owners, crew and clients of the for -hire sector and fisheries managers as well. An especially important aspect of the EFP is the fact that it leads to samples from the headboat fleet that are inside and outside of the pilot Cooperative. After control for selection effects, this allows those vessels that do not participate to serve as a control group for those that do. This creates the potential for researchers to compare the change in important performance metrics before and after the EFP for both groups of vessels.
Such a scenario is fairly rare in fisheries management and offers the potential for a far more robust contribution to knowledge than studies that focus on before /after impacts alone. In summary, the Gulf Headboat Cooperative pilot program presents a significant opportunity to expand the scientific foundations for sound management of the for -hire sector through thoughtful data collection and analysis. The data and research protocol presented within the EFP represent a framework to maximize the useful information from such a policy experiment while fostering collaboration between the for -hire sector and researchers. These features will enhance the credibility of the associated data and research in the academic community while facilitating the ongoing adaptive management of for -hire recreational fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.
We urge you to approve the Gulf Headboat Cooperative EFP.
On behalf of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) and our 75,000 members in the Gulf of Mexico states, this letter conveys our unequivocal opposition to the proposed Exempted Fishing Permit (RIN 0648-XC528) that would allow a pre-selected subset of less than a dozen Gulf headboat operators to be gifted recreational quota to use for their individual harvest of red snapper and grouper for two years. Touted as an experiment to provide accurate and timely landings data, we believe that the primary goal of this EFP is to pave the way for allowing separate allocations of common property resources to the for-hire and private boat recreational fishing sectors and the ultimate creation of a catch shares program in the recreational sector. The application for this EFP has been careful to avoid the use of the terms “catch share” or “sector separation,” but it is clear that it tests a catch share that would depend on sector separation.
This EFP simply will not produce conservation gains nor will it enhance efficiency. Any “academic study” designed to quantify the stated goals of this EFP would be seriously affected by the non-random selection of the subject vessels. ...
Not only is this EFP flawed from a purely technical perspective, it is difficult to comprehend that such a program would be given serious consideration given the very high levels of political and popular opposition to sector separation and catch shares. ...
If memory serves, the Socioeconomic Panel of the SAFMC SSC has gone on record several times in favor of catch shares (i.e., what they used to call individual transferable quotas) in most any way, shape or form. Here is the most recent example [pdf] from the October 2012 meeting:
In the broadest terms, the SEP has significant concerns about the use of arbitrary rules to determine allocation between sectors. It would prefer to see transferability between sectors, in which one sector could purchase parts of the other's allocations.
NOAA Fisheries has issued an exempted fishing permit (EFP) to the Gulf of Mexico Headboat Cooperative (Cooperative). The Cooperative consists of headboat owners/captains. The Cooperative intends to evaluate the efficiency of an allocation-based management system, using a limited number of headboats in a two-year pilot study.
This study, to be conducted in the Gulf of Mexico, is intended to assess whether such a system can better achieve conservation goals established in the Fishery Management Plan for the Reef Fish Resources of the Gulf of Mexico; evaluate the effectiveness of a more timely electronic data reporting system; and evaluate the potential social and economic benefits of an alternative management strategy for the headboat segment of the recreational fishing sector within the Gulf reef fish fishery.
Short story and short paper: We submitted this to Applied Economics Letters June 27, about 5 years after it was first written. It was accepted on July 15 and published on August 27. What were we waiting for? The energy to beef it up to send it to a higher ranked journal. That energy never materialized.
So I was reading this CNN story this morning about the recent increase in bottlenose dolphin deaths on the east coast.
The carcasses of dozens
of the marine mammals, seven times more than normal, have been washing
up on beaches this summer, and scientists are struggling for answers to
In Virginia alone, at
least 164 dead dolphins have been found this year, said Joan M. Barns,
public relations manager for the Virginia Aquarium in Virginia Beach.
Almost half of those, 78, have washed ashore in August, she said.
As of Tuesday, federal
authorities say, they have recorded 228 dolphin deaths this year from
New York to Virginia. In all of 2012, 111 deaths were recorded.
'Why,' you ask, 'would I bother reading about dolphins?' Well, I'm glad you asked. First, dolphins are cute. And B), I seem to have spent a significant portion of my adult life studying ways to use economics to inform decision makers on environmental and natural resource disasters. So, upon reading of an anomolous (that's odd) increase in dolphin deaths, I naturally wonder, what are the costs of dolphin deaths, and what are the benefits of preventing dolphin deaths?
So how do I find teh value of a dolphin. Naturally I turn to the only reliable source for finding such information...Google. So I Googled 'value of a dolhin.' No, reallym, that's what I Googled. because my typing skills suck. Fortunately, Google planned for my sucky typing skills and gave me results for 'value of a dolphin.'*
At its most basic, the process now consuming teams of BP and
government scientists and lawyers revolves around this: How much is a
dolphin worth, and how exactly did it die?
extraordinarily difficult to monetise environmental harm. What dollar
value do we place on a destroyed marsh or the loss of a spawning ground?
What is the price associated with killing birds and marine mammals?
Even if we were capable of meaningfully establishing a price for
ecological harm, there is so much that we do not know about the harm to
the Gulf of Mexico – and will not know for years – that it may never be
possible to come up with an accurate natural resource damage
assessment," said David Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of
Michigan and a former head of the justice department's environmental
Warning: Snark ahead. Well, gee, if only the lawyers could figure out a way to value environmental harm? Or a way to place a dollar value on dead birds or marine mammals. Maybe, just maybe, a bunch of people should get together and think about how lessons learned from how people place values on things like blenders and hamburgers can be translated into ways to place values on things like oil spills, or fish kills, or fish species, or natural hazard mitigation. And, maybe, with some pie-in-the-sky thinking, these new methods for valuing the impossible might develop to the point where someone could write a book explaining the methods with an obtuse title like "Valuing Environmental and Natural Resources."
Maybe. Oh, Maybe. Someday. One can hope.
*Have I ever mentioned that I am convinced that Google is the greatest invention ever?
"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