International weekly scientific journal Nature chose a paper authored by two UCSB scientists as “Best Research of 2008.” Christopher Costello, economist at the UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, was the lead author of the award-winning fishery management strategies paper. Steven Gaines, director of UCSB’s Marine Science Institute, and John Lynham, assistant professor at the University of Hawaii, co-authored the paper.

The paper derived from a study published by Science magazine late last year addressing the major problem of fishery management. According to Nature, since the 1950s, the world’s biomass has continued to decrease at an alarming rate and consequently, fisheries are in dire need of management to help stop the collapse. The research conducted by Costello, Gaines, and Lynham showed that a strategy called “catch shares” could potentially reverse the problem.

After analyzing data from 1950 to 2003 from more than 11,000 fisheries, Costello and his colleagues argued that individual tradable quotas (ITQs) could provide assistance to fishery management. The article in Nature explained that these ITQs “divide a limited total catch exclusively among fishermen who work a fishery, and allow them to sell the rights to their share. Because the value of these shares increases with the overall productivity of the fishery, each fisherman has an incentive to manage it well.”

Although the conclusions presented in the paper may not necessarily solve the problem, it certainly could help. “We hope that our research on catch shares will spur additional analysis of the effects of institutions on fisheries performance, and environmental performance more broadly,” Costello said in a UCSB press release. “Such analysis could form the basis for important policy changes at the economy/environment interface.” He and his colleagues said they feel honored to be recognized and look forward to conducting more research on the issue.


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