Moving beyond catch in allocation approaches for internationally shared fish stocks

M.L. Bailey, G. Ishimura, R. Paisley, U. Rashid Sumaila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Allocation schemes are one way to combat the tragedy of the commons, the situation whereby individual users of a shared resource put their own interests above the collective good. In the case of shared fisheries, developing equitable and transparent allocation schemes can help to ensure stable cooperative management agreements, which in turn will facilitate sustainable fisheries. Allocation schemes for shared fisheries resources, which have been in existence for decades, have recently been facilitated by Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs). These schemes vary in the scale of interested parties, from simple two-country systems sharing Pacific salmon, to multi-country systems sharing Atlantic bluefin tuna. Most RFMOs tend to base allocation schemes on historical catch records, spatial stock abundance estimates, or a combination of these. Socio-economic factors do not appear to influence allocation to any major extent. Unfortunately, previous attempts at creating and enforcing allocation programs have not, by and large, been able to curb the serial depletion of fish stocks, particularly when the number of fishing countries is large. Several RFMOs are currently in the process of initiating or reformulating allocation programs. In this paper, current allocation approaches are reviewed and discussed in the context of their possible transference to new or evolving programs. Specifically, lessons from game theory are drawn on, and the potential for better incorporation of socioeconomic circumstances in allocation decisions, which can incentivize improved compliance, is explored. The relevance of conclusions from the literature analyzing international water agreements is also discussed, and a combined socio-economic-ecological construct whereby allocation programs can be based on the sharing of benefits other than catch is proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-136
JournalMarine Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • externalities
  • management
  • fisheries
  • resources
  • tragedy
  • commons
  • game


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