Risky Fishing

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Science  22 Feb 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6122, pp. 884
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6122.884-b

Fishing is a risky way to make a living, not only in terms of physical injury and death but also financially. Although farmers often have access to crop insurance, price supports, and futures markets to mitigate risk, such tools are unavailable to commercial fishers. One approach common to both farmers and fishers, however, is to diversify their harvests. But fishers face constraints on their portfolio due to limited licenses and catch quotas imposed by fisheries managers. To better understand this phenomenon, Kasperski and Holland analyzed harvest and revenue data for over 30,000 commercial fishing vessels operated off the U.S. West Coast and Alaska from 1981 to 2010. Maximum income variability was observed when harvests were only modestly diverse, roughly a 90-10% split between the two fisheries. Although income was slightly more stable when harvests were not at all diverse (100-0%), income stability was more pronounced as harvests were spread 50-50% across two fisheries, or even more stable when spread 50-25-25% across three fisheries. Fishery restrictions may be necessary to ensure sustainability and efficiency; however, they do have important economic effects on fishers.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 110, 2076 (2013).

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