Estimating the effectiveness of the world’s fishing-restricted areas

Start/End: August, 2018 to July, 2020

Marine protected areas (MPAs) where fishing is restricted may help promote sustainable fisheries by providing a refuge for fishes, allowing larger fish to survive and potentially spill over into other areas. Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) could also have conservation benefits if they reduce fishing by foreign vessels. But how much of an impact do area-based fishing restrictions really have? It has been difficult to prove a cause-effect relationship between MPAs and EEZs on the one hand, and fish populations on the other, in part because it can be difficult to monitor whether illegal or unregulated fishing is occurring

In his research project, the fellow proposes to use new global fishing activity datasets and casual analysis methods from econometrics to estimate the effects of fishing restrictions on actual fishing activity. The methodology relies on boundaries in fishing-restricted areas that are arbitrary with respect to fish populations. He will use data sets with global coverage in order to develop the methodology, and will test it using data from Indonesia.

International enforcement is a priority for NOAA Fisheries because, as a major consumer and importer of seafood, the United States has a special responsibility to conserve global marine resources and ensure that demand from the United States is not contributing to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. For these reasons, NOAA Fisheries aids other countries and international organizations in developing enforcement capacity and management interventions. This project will help clarify for NOAA Fisheries which countries and MPA regulators are most in need of technical assistance and institutional capacity building.