Heterogeneity in fishers' harvesting decisions under a marine territorial user rights policy

Stefan Gelcich*, Gareth Edwards-Jones, Michel J. Kaiser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Marine fisheries are in decline and the existence of poorly defined property rights is a contributory cause of this decline. The allocation of property rights can bring benefits in terms of enhancing biological sustainability and economic profitability. However, to date few studies have analysed the behaviour of fishers who have been granted such property rights. Such studies are important if theoretical means of improving the sustainability of fisheries are to be tested in real world situations. In this study we assessed the financial decision-making behaviour of fishers when managing resources under a territorial user rights policy implemented in Chile. We used bidding games and semi-structured interviews to assess fishers' financial understanding and risk preferences. We defined risk preferences as the amount of potential catch fishers are willing to leave unharvested in return for a potential future increase in income from the natural growth in the resource. Results indicated that fishers' financial behaviour under similar revenue scenarios were largely determined by livelihood characteristics and not wealth. This reflected two major financial adaptation strategies that were split between different fishery sectors: a) specialist fishers (in our case divers) became risk acceptant when confronted with a scenario in which the mean body-size of the harvested species was small, and they were willing to 'invest' their natural resources by leaving some of their potential catch unharvested for a year, and b) more generalist fishers (here fin-fishers) were less inclined to leave potential catches unharvested. They preferred to have the money to invest in tangible assets such as fishing nets. This suggest that fishers' harvesting behaviour is heterogeneous and depends on whether fishers perceive themselves as facing potential gains or loses assessed against a personal expectation level. The use of Prospect theory may be appropriate to further elucidate fishers' behaviour under territorial user right frameworks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)246-254
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2007


  • Chile
  • Co-management
  • Human dimension
  • Marine protected areas
  • Prospect theory
  • Risk preferences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics


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