Tradable harvest rights are gradually replacing prescriptive regulations in the management of commercial fisheries. We provide evidence that this management strategy can also successfully achieve non-commercial marine conservation goals, such as limiting unintended catch (bycatch) of protected species. We examine fishers' responses to the introduction of tradable harvest rights for protected species, 'bycatch rights,' in the US West Coast groundfish fishery, finding evidence of adjustment along several margins and estimating the marginal cost of conservation. Fishers adapted to bycatch rights by changing fishing location, gear, time of day fished, and duration of fishing activity. As a result, catches of protected species fell dramatically. The nuanced nature of fishers' responses indicates that the least-cost way of achieving conservation goals can involve fine-tuned behavioral adaptations that would be difficult or impossible to achieve with command-and-control regulation.
- Rights-based regulation
- fishery management