Status-quo management of marine recreational fisheries undermines angler welfare

Joshua Abbott, Patrick Lloyd-Smith, Daniel Willard, Wiktor Adamowicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Recreational fisheries can have a significant impact on fish populations and can suffer from the same symptoms of open access as commercial fisheries. However, recreational fisheries receive little attention compared with their commercial counterparts. Regulations designed to allocate scarce fish, such as seasonal closures and bag limits, can result in significant losses of value to anglers. We provide an estimate of these foregone benefits by estimating the potential gains to implementing management reforms of the headboat portion of the recreational red snapper fishery in the US Gulf of Mexico. This fishery has suffered from a regulatory spiral of shortened seasons and lowered bag limits in spite of rebuilding stocks. We gather primary survey data of headboat anglers that elicit trip behavior and their planned number and seasonal distribution of trips under status-quo and alternative management approaches. We use these data to estimate a model of anglers’ seasonal trip demand as a function of the ability to retain red snapper, bag limits, and fees. We find that a hypothetical rights-based policy, whereby vessels with secure rights to a portion of annual catch could offer their customers year-round fishing in exchange for lower per-angler retention and increased fees, could raise the average angler’s welfare by $139/y. When placed in the global context of recreational fishing, these estimates suggest that status-quo management may deprive anglers of billions of dollars of lost economic value per year.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8948-8953
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 4 2018


  • Management reform
  • Recreational demand
  • Recreational fisheries
  • Rights-based management
  • |

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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