Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
September 2020

Assessing the Potential for Transferability of Access Rights to Enhance Sustainability in Large Pacific Tropical Fisheries

Assessing the Potential for Transferability of Access Rights to Enhance Sustainability in Large Pacific Tropical Fisheries cover

This study was conducted in order to identify options for the transferability of fishing rights in the context of Pacific Island commercial longline and purse seine tuna fisheries (where the rights are denominated in units of fishing effort, i.e., fishing days), including the scale of potential benefits and costs to countries and territories in the region, and key issues that would need to be considered by decision makers in order to develop specific policy proposals. The study does not aim to predict the costs and benefits of specific policy proposals for transferability, but rather to conduct an initial scoping that would allow for such a detailed analysis to take place, and to provide a sound basis of information for policy dialogue in the region.

The motivation for conducting this study was to provide information that can assist policy makers and fisheries managers in the region to consider if this policy instrument (enhanced transferability of fishing rights) could support achievement of the goals agreed in the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries. Achieving these goals will take significant effort in this, one of the world’s largest and most complex fisheries to manage. The tuna fisheries most relevant to Pacific Island countries and territories (PICT) are the units of analysis here: the purse seine fishery, the tropical longline fishery, and the southern albacore fishery. Numerous successes and innovations in governance of the purse seine fishery have led to exponential growth in economic benefits for Pacific Island countries and territories, but as this growth has slowed, future gains are likely to be incremental and result from greater efforts to strengthen governance and enhance efficiency—such as introducing transferability. At the same time, economic benefits to the region from the two longline fisheries have stagnated, and governance innovations are both needed and currently underway or in development. This study was proposed by a group of regional thought leaders in part to consider if transferability might be one such innovation, based on examples in other fisheries where limited fishing rights were allocated to vessels and operators with differing levels of efficiency, and the creation of a secondary market in these rights allowed for vessels and/or operators to trade in order to increase the overall efficiency of the fishery and economic outcomes.