Transferable quotas, efficiency and crew ownership in Whalsay, Shetland

Emma J Cardwell, Robert Gear

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


The resource economic theory tells us that individual transferable quotas (ITQs) improve efficiency in the fishing industry by removing the least efficient actors from a fishery and allowing ownership to concentrate in the hands of the most efficient operators. Assertions about the nature of this allocative efficiency are, however, often based on purely theoretical assumptions. This paper presents a case study of the efficient operators remaining in the UK pelagic fishing fleet. After over 30 years of rights-based management (RBM) and 12 years of ITQs, the UK pelagic fleet numbers only 31 large-scale boats. Seven of these operate from the island of Whalsay in Shetland, which, with a population of approximately 1000 people (0.000016% of the population of the UK), is entitled to land around 22% of the UK pelagic catch. A key characteristic of the economically efficient Whalsay fleet is a crew ownership structure. This is now under threat from the long-term dynamics of the UK's ITQ system, as the high price of quota prevents the renewal of the fishery through new entrants. In the majority of global fisheries, where vessel ownership structures do not follow an assumed economic norm, fully marketised transferable rights may not be the most efficient method of management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-166
Number of pages7
JournalMarine Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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