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Sustainability requires change to allocated property rights: The story of abalone

Prince, J.D. (2006) Sustainability requires change to allocated property rights: The story of abalone. In: Sharing the Fish ‘06: Allocation issues in fisheries management, 27 February - 2 March, Fremantle, Western Australia



Abalone fisheries in Australia and New Zealand are managed at scales of 100s of kilometers with zonal Legal Minimum Lengths (LML) and Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQ), for commercial divers, and short fishing seasons, trip and possession limits for the recreational sector. Abalone resources are comprised of many independent populations which vary widely in their size of maturity. Under focused fishing pressure local populations with larger sizes of maturity have relatively little of their breeding stock protected by a zonal LML. Populations with a large size of maturity relative to the zonal LML are prone to local extinction. A gardening approach to abalone management would allow cultivators to learn optimal shell sizes and harvest rates for individual reefs while allowing government agencies to withdraw into the role of regulator and advisor.

Optimizing abalone production necessitates changing the nature of existing property rights from an allocation of zonal catch (ITQ), into a right to harvest a defined area; Territorial User Rights Fishery (TURF). Among the institutional impediments to this reform are the complex allocation issues involved. The first concerns the mechanism by which agencies and stake holders could agree to change existing commercial allocations into an equitably proportional allocation of the harvestable area. Two proposed mechanisms illustrate the essential elements required; equity, transparency and independence from outside influence. The second issue concerns allocation between the commercial sector, recreational and traditional harvesters, and non-extractive users. The current systems generally avoid explicitly allocating shares between these sectors TURF management necessitates making this allocation explicit.

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