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Who Opposes ITQs?

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  • When evaluating potential government interventions economists often consider whether a proposed policy is efficient. However, changes in policy can also result in changes in wealth. When politically influential individuals or groups see losses, efficient policies can become politically infeasible even if they increase wealth in aggregate. This paper examines political support for individual transferrable quotas (ITQs), which transition a fishery from a derby setting, where fishers race to catch a total quota, to the assignment of quota shares to each individual. The initial assignment of quota, often via grandfathering, can result in a redistribution of wealth from fishers who do well in a derby to those who receive quota. To test whether distributional concerns drive opposition, I examine over 3,000 political participation records, in the form of public testimony and written letters, from the transition of the Alaska sablefish and halibut fisheries to ITQ management. I link the stated political position of each fisher to their historic catch and then construct measures of expected catch under status quo and catch share regimes. I find that opposition is increasing in the difference between status quo and ITQ catch. For instance, a fisher who missed one of the years from which historic catch is calculated, leading to a lower quota allocation, is around 20% more likely to oppose ITQs. After nearly five years of deliberation, the ITQ policy was modified to address distributional concerns and include provisions allowing fishers to drop their lowest year of participation, leading to final approval in 1992.
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  • NAAFE Forum 2017 Proceedings, March 22-24, 2017. Compiled by Ann L. Shriver with assistance from Stefani Evers. North American Association of Fisheries Economists (NAAFE), Corvallis, 2017.
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  • 097634324X



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