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Localized sea turtle bycatch regulation leads to higher overall sea turtle bycatch

May 31, 2016

In "Spillover Effects of Environmental Regulation for Sea Turtle Protection in the Hawaii Longline Swordfish Fishery," forthcoming in Marine Resource Economics (July 2016), Hing Ling Chan and Minling Pan show that U.S. bycatch regulation increases total sea turtle bycatch in the surrounding North and Central Pacific Ocean, due to production displacement and higher foreign sea turtle bycatch. This area includes fisheries in the U.S., Japan, Taiwan, China, Korea, Mexico, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia.

From April 2001 through March 2004, U.S. bycatch regulation prohibited a Hawaii-based longline fishery from catching swordfish. The fishery, which produced the majority of U.S.-consumed swordfish, reopened in April 2004 after implementing bycatch reduction practices. After 2004, total swordfish production from all U.S. fisheries was 50% lower than pre-closure levels, likely resulting from resource expenditures required by the legislation. To meet consumer demand, swordfish production in the North and Central Pacific Ocean steadily rose during this time, increasing the potential for interactions between fishing vessels and sea turtles.

To determine the effects of these production shifts, Chan and Pan analyzed 2002-2012 swordfish catch data from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, while considering bycatch rates under the different policies regulating the North and Central Pacific Ocean. If the U.S. had maintained its pre-closure swordfish production levels, the estimated sea turtle bycatch would be 11% lower than actual 2002-2012 counts. Alternately, if all North and Central Pacific fisheries implemented regulations as restrictive as the U.S., turtle bycatch would decrease by an estimated 83%.

"There is growing recognition that environmental regulation in one location can spill over into other locations and, to varying degrees, offset the intended outcomes of the regulation. Researchers have found these effects in fisheries management, greenhouse gas mitigation, water pollution regulation, and endangered species protection," said Marine Resource Economics Editor-in-Chief Martin D. Smith, Duke University. "This new study adds to a growing body of work that demonstrates the pervasiveness of regulatory spillovers. It challenges policy makers to think carefully about unilateral actions that ultimately may not benefit the environment."
Marine Resource Economics publishes creative and scholarly economic analyses of issues related to natural resource use in the global marine environment. The scope of the journal includes conceptual and empirical investigations aimed at addressing real-world oceans and coastal policy problems. Examples include studies of fisheries, aquaculture, seafood marketing and trade, marine biodiversity, marine and coastal recreation, marine pollution, offshore oil and gas, seabed mining, renewable ocean energy sources, marine transportation, coastal land use and climate adaptation, and management of estuaries and watersheds.

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