Rights-based management for recreational for-hire fisheries: Evidence from a policy trial

Joshua Abbott, Daniel Willard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Most for-hire recreational fisheries are managed using season, bag and size limits. Yet these approaches do little to control fishing effort or mortality and may dissipate value to anglers and vessel owners. Rights-based management approaches could theoretically address these shortcomings but are untested in the for-hire recreational context. We address this knowledge gap by examining the outcome of a two-year policy “experiment” in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico − a system plagued by shrinking seasons and tighter bag limits. Participating for-hire vessels in the Gulf Headboat Collaborative received individual allocations of red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus) and gag grouper (Mycteroperca microlepis) that they were free to fish outside of the usual seasons in exchange for enhanced accountability. We find that participants smoothed their offerings of red snapper and gag trips across the year, increasing anglers’ access to these species. Regulatory discards of the allocated species declined as well. Vessel revenues and net revenues increased respectably despite a relatively unchanged number of trips after the policy change. Revenue increases were driven by increased anglers per trip in offseason periods and by shifting customers to longer, higher value trips through the promise of catching desirable species outside of the restrictive federal season. Surveys of vessel owners confirm the overall success of the policy trial and corroborate the quantitative analysis of the mechanisms underlying its economic benefits. We conclude with a discussion of the usefulness and limitations of this policy trial for predicting the long-run outcomes of permanent rights-based management policies for the for-hire sector.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-116
Number of pages11
JournalFisheries Research
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Catch shares
  • For-hire sector
  • Recreational fisheries
  • Rights-based management
  • Sportfishing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Rights-based management for recreational for-hire fisheries: Evidence from a policy trial'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this