Working Papers

The IOF Working Paper Series has been introduced to serve as a ‘placeholder’ for papers that are destined for publication in the primary literature. This series makes our work available in a timely fashion, and well before the works appear in the primary literature. It will also help us to get timely comments from colleagues, both at IOF and world-wide.

Another advantage of having a Working Paper Series is the ability to cite a working paper, which most journals would not allow you to do with an unpublished manuscript.
Note: Some journals do not allow this. Authors are advised to check before they publish a working paper.


#2022-05 Vaidyanathan, T., Foster, S.J. and Vincent, A.C.J. (2022) A practical approach to meeting national obligations for sustainable trade under CITES . IOF Working Papers 2022 (05), 28pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Summary: Reconciling conservation and resource use requires adaptive management. The Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) is a key tool in species conservation, regulating international trade for a list of species (Appendix II) that are or may become threatened by trade. To export such species, CITES member countries are required to evaluate if their exports are damaging wild populations (dubbed making a non-detriment finding or NDF). When countries find this challenge too great, they often default to banning international trade, thus imposing economic costs on stakeholders and/or driving the trade underground where it is more difficult to control. What, then, are the easiest ways for countries to make NDFs? We propose a simplified spatial approach to making NDFs using the case study of India, which has banned catch and trade of seahorses (Hippocampus spp.), but where rampant illegal trade continues. Our approach involves mapping the answers to four questions: (1) where are the species found?; and then, for those areas, (2) what pressures do the species face?; (3) what measures are in place to manage the pressures?; and (4) how well are the measures working? Information came from fishers’ knowledge and published literature. Overall, reported seahorse presence was greatest in the southern Palk Bay region. This region theoretically offered protection to seahorses through a 3 nm bottom trawl exclusion zone and a 60 day closed season. Implementation was problematic. Both bottom trawl and dragnet fishers reported respecting the closed season but three-quarters of bottom trawl fishers reportedly catching seahorses in the trawl exclusion zone. Our conservation assessment identified the opportunity to better implement existing management measures as well as the need for further management action (that would do more than simply banning capture). This pragmatic geographic analysis provides managers in India with a tractable route towards regulating exports at sustainable levels. Our assessment approach can be deployed broadly in assessing sustainability of exploitation and provides an alternative to the current futile bans.

#2022-04 Sumaila, U.R., Zeng, Z., Lam, V.W.Y, and Cheung, W.W.L (2022) A rich analysis of the economic, social and environmental effects of harmful fisheries at the ecosystem . IOF Working Papers 2022 (04), 23pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Summary: Marine fish stocks and the fisheries they support play a vital role in meeting the food and nutritional needs of tens of millions of people worldwide while providing jobs and incomes to many more millions. Even though marine fish stocks are renewable they are seriously threatened by many stressors, including overfishing due to ineffective management and the perverse effects of government policies such as the provision of harmful subsidies; climate change and marine pollution, e.g., ocean plastic pollution and oil spills. Here, we explore the effects of harmful fisheries subsidies in three marine ecosystems chosen for their importance in terms of food security, size and diversity (Mauritanian EEZ, South China Sea and East China Sea); and three different management scenarios, i.e., optimizing (i) economic rent; (ii) jobs; and (ii) ecological fitness. This rich modelling exercise allows us to address pertinent questions such as how much resource depletion is due to subsidies; how much rent depletion occurs due to the provision of harmful subsidies; and to what extent do differences in management regimes matter?

#2022-03 Bennett, N.J., Alava, J.J., Ferguson, C.E., Blythe, J., Morgera, E., Boyd, D. and Côté, I.M. (2022)
Environmental Justice in the Ocean
. IOF Working Papers 2022 (03), 38pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Summary: Environmental justice refers broadly to the distribution of environmental benefits and burdens, and the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people in environmental decision-making and legal frameworks. The field of environmental justice initially developed out of a concern for the disproportionate distribution and impacts of environmental pollution and hazardous waste disposal on groups that have been historically and structurally marginalized, including Black populations and socio-economically disadvantaged communities. More recent environmental justice scholarship has expanded geographically and focused on a broader set of environmental hazards and harms, such as climate change impacts, biodiversity and habitat loss, and ecosystem service declines. Yet, the impacts and distribution of environmental hazards and harms in the marine environment on coastal populations has received less attention in the environmental justice literature. This narrative review paper starts to address this gap through a focus on five key environmental hazards and harms that are occurring in the marine and coastal environment: 1) pollution and toxic wastes, 2) plastics and marine debris, 3) climate change, 4) ecosystem, biodiversity and ecosystem service degradation, and 5) fisheries declines. For each, we characterize the issue and root drivers, then examine social and distributional impacts. In the discussion, we explore how impacts are differentiated, inequitably distributed, converging and cumulative and briefly examine solutions and future research directions. In conclusion, we call for greater and more explicit attention to environmental justice in ocean research and policy.

#2022-02 Daniel Forrest, Xinru Li, Marta Flotats Avilés, Margaryta Pustova, and Alastair Roberts (2022)
Riding the wave: Challenges and opportunities for marine renewable energies in Canada’s energy transition
. IOF Working Papers 2022 (02), 32pp., FISH 507, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Summary: While Canada has massive potential marine energy capacity, no utility scale developments exist at present. In our report, we examine the barriers and opportunities associated with marine renewable energies (MRE) in Canada. First, we outline the major barriers to development, namely 1) a convoluted regulatory environment; 2) a history of poor public perception and engagement; 3) a lack of available capital investment; 4) a need for additional evidence to support the viability of some MRE technologies; and 5) economic competition from terrestrial wind and solar. Despite these barriers, we find that some MREs have advantages over terrestrial renewable power sources in certain scenarios and are ready to contribute to Canada's future energy mix as it moves towards net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

#2022-01 Jeroen Steenbeek (2022) EwE linked stanza recruitment: A brief users’ guide. IOF Working Papers 2022 (01), 6pp., Ecopath International Initiative, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Summary: Occasionally, ecosystem modellers run into issues where gender-split populations need explicit modelling. This can occur when empirical data is only available for male or female specimens, or when males and females of key species have markedly different behaviours. We have made a small modification to the Ecopath with Ecosim (EwE) multi-stanza model (Christensen and Walters, 2004), that allows linking recruitment to ensure proportional spawning between two multi-stanza groups, and thus connecting two gender-split populations at their foundation.

#2020-07 Xiong Zhang, Gerald Singh, Amanda C. J. Vincent (2020) Combining interdisciplinary approaches to evaluate policies on bottom trawl fisheries in China over seven decades. IOF Working Papers 2020 (07), 47pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: Quantitatively evaluating policy effectiveness is vital to evidence-based decision making. Such analysis is, however, rare in natural resource management. We here initiate a novel framework that integrates econometric models, ecological approaches, and novel performance indices. Our focus lies in regulations of bottom trawl fisheries (BTF), a destructive form of exploitation that is executed globally, led by China. We examine effects of China’s national policies on its BTF (1949 – 2018). Our results indicated that only 22% of the policies had the intended conservation-oriented effects in curtailing BTF, 29% had non-significant effects, and others mainly produced growth or a mix of effects. Overarching policy, international law & agreement, output control, and law enforcement were significant in curtailing China’s BTF. In contrast, ban & protection policies and input controls – the dominant types of policies in China – failed to curtail BTF. Central government policies were disproportionately more powerful than those from specific ministries. China’s BTF policies can be classified into three groups: (i) those with comprehensive effects; (ii) those mainly affecting fishing capacity & yield of distant-water fisheries; and (iii) those that slightly affected total landings. To rein in bottom trawling, China needs to consider a more conservation-oriented and adaptive policy framework, one that is directly endorsed by the central government and embraces rights-based output control and comprehensive law enforcement. Our study pioneers a new and easier path for quantitatively evaluating fishery policies, one that helps promote real change while limiting futile repetition of ineffectual policies.

#2020-06 Carl Walters (2020) A simple model for prediction of equilibrium biomass and yield from age-structured populations. IOF Working Papers 2020 (06), 8pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: In fisheries assessments we routinely need to predict equilibrium vulnerable biomass and catch as a function of fishing mortality rate using age-structured models, so as to provide reference points for long term management. In such predictions, we typically represent equilibrium biomass as the product of predicted equilibrium recruitment Re times equilibrium biomass per recruit BPRe: Be = Re.BPRe
In such calculations, we typically need to account for effects of fishing mortality rate F on both Re (possible recruitment overfishing) and BPRe (possible growth overfishing).

#2020-05 Ben Nelson, Villy Christensen, Carl Walters (2020) Rebuilding the Georgia Strait sport fishery through marine mammal culling. IOF Working Papers 2020 (05), 12pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: The Georgia Strait sport fishery has declined dramatically over the last 30 years. There is strong correlative evidence that this decline has been due to impact of growing harbour seal abundance on the first-year marine survival rates of Chinook and Coho, before the fish reach sizes attractive to anglers. Fishing effort has responded strongly to the decline in abundance of larger fish, to result in a nearly linear trade off relationship between effort and seal abundance. Simple models based on the historical data predict that the fishery could be largely restored through moderate (50%) reductions in the seal population, possibly by allowing First Nations harvesting as a traditional use and right.

#2020-04 Carl Walters (2020) The continuous time Schnute-Deriso delay-difference model for age-structured population dynamics, with example application to the Peru anchoveta stock. IOF Working Papers 2020 (04), 22pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: The Schnute-Deriso delay-difference model (Deriso, 1980; Schnute 1985) provides an extremely compact representation of the exact dynamics of total numbers and biomass for age-structured populations where (1) there is knife-edge recruitment to the harvested (adult) population, i.e. fishing mortality rate is independent of age for fish aged ar and older; (2) natural mortality rate M is constant; and (3) body weight growth can be approximated by the Ford-Brody model for weight at age a, namely w(a)=α+ρw(a-1). This growth model is only a good approximation for older ages, beyond the age at which weight growth rate begins to decline, but most harvested fish populations meet this condition.

#2020-03 Xiong Zhang, Amanda C. J. Vincent (2020) Reconstructing fishing capacity and landings of China’s bottom trawl fisheries (1950 – 2018). IOF Working Papers 2020 (03), 41pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: Bottom trawling (BT) has long been a global concern for its destructive impacts on marine fisheries and conservation. Revealing the evolution of BT and its impact on the marine ecosystems depends on timeseries data of the fishing capacity and landings. Such timeseries information might be well documented in developed countries but are rare in many developing nations such as China, whose bottom trawl fisheries (BTF) dwarf all other nations. Here we used timeseries models (ARIMA) and other regression models (GAM & LOESS) to reconstruct China’s BTF from 1950 to 2018. We estimated the fishing capacity (vessels and engine horsepower) based on both published data from Chinese government and scientists and archived historical records from Chinese fisheries institutions. We reconstructed the catch estimates (by Sea Around US Project) with corrections in the timeseries for distant waters beyond China’s coastal seas before 1985. We also extrapolated the catch timeseries up to 2018 (currently available by 2014). Our study provides vital timeseries information to understand the evolution of China’s BTF and its global impacts.

#2020-02 Nathan J. Bennett, Jessica Blythe, Carole White & Cecilia Campero (2020) Blue Growth and Blue Justice. IOF Working Papers 2020 (02), 25pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: The oceans are increasingly viewed as a new frontier with huge potential for economic development. Terms such as the ‘Blue Economy’ and ‘Blue Growth’ encapsulate this new framing of the oceans as spaces of opportunity. Yet, as energy prospectors, biotechnology companies, deep-sea mining companies, fisheries corporations, and investment companies race to capitalize on ocean-based resources, substantial risks can arise for both people and the environment. The dominant discourse that frames blue growth as beneficial for the economy, for developing nations, and for coastal communities risks downplaying both the uneven distribution of benefits and the potential for substantial social harms. Indeed, civil society organizations, small-scale fisher organizations, and academics alike have been sounding the alarm and trying to draw attention to the social justice implications of rapid and unchecked development of ocean resources. To draw greater attention to these issues, this paper reviews past evidence of the social injustices that can result from ocean-based development. Our literature review highlights 10 injustices that can be produced by blue growth: 1) dispossession, displacement and ocean grabbing; 2) environmental justice concerns from pollution and waste; 3) environmental degradation and reduction of availability of ecosystem services; 4) undermining livelihoods of small-scale fishers; 5) undermining access to marine resources needed for food security and well-being; 6) inequitable distribution of economic benefits; 7) social and cultural impacts; 8) marginalization of women, 9) human and Indigenous rights abuses; and, 10) exclusion from decision-making and governance. Through a direct critique of past injustices, our aim is to stimulate a rigorous dialogue on how to achieve a more just and inclusive ocean economy. We conclude that a commitment to ‘blue justice’ – including recognitional, procedural, and distributional concerns - needs to be at the core of the blue growth agenda. Achieving a more just ocean economy may require a complete rethinking or transformation of the blue growth paradigm.

#2020-01 Xiong Zhang, Amanda C. J. Vincent (2020) Evolution of China’s policies on bottom trawl fisheries over seven decades (1949 – 2018). IOF Working Papers 2020 (01), 141pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: To pursue sustainable fisheries, the world needs to constrain bottom trawling (BT) through effective management. Such change is particularly urgent for China, which operates the largest bottom-trawl fisheries (BTF) both in and beyond its waters. We provide the first comprehensive review of China’s approach to BTF over seven decades (1949 – 2018) based on bibliometric approaches (diversity index, network and word-cloud analyses). We collated an inventory of 103 Chinese national policies and classified them into seven categories (e.g., input/output control) over five eras: (i) E1: 1949 – 1977 (planned fishing with limited management); (ii) E2: 1978 – 1992 (regime shift with input control); (iii) E3: 1993 – 2002 (EEZ management with multiple regulations); (iv) E4: 2003 – 2012 (resource conservation with fuel subsidy); and (v) E5: 2013 – 2018 (fisheries transformation with bans ahead). We found that China has increased its concerns on BTF, with more frequent and diverse policies over time. Such changes included more limits (e.g., input and output controls) and more law enforcement. However, many well-intentioned ones (including bans) failed in implementation. We indicate that China’s BTF policies have been influenced by both domestic (e.g., political will, consumption demand) and international drivers (e.g., international laws, globalization). We highlight the problems in managing China’s BTF, and challenges and suggestions in policy implementation. This review may help policy making and implementation for BTF management in China and facilitate the dialogue between China and the world in fishery policies for sustainable development.

#2019-06 Anna Schuhbauer, Daniel J. Skerritt, Naazia Ebrahim, Frédéric Le Manach, U. Rashid Sumaila (2019) The global fisheries subsidies divide between small- and large-scale fisheries. IOF Working Papers 2019 (06), 13pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: This bottom-up study provides an up-dated and improved analysis highlighting the importance of understanding how each fishing sub-sector receives financial support from tax-payers money. Estimates show that of the USD 35.4 billion global fisheries subsidies in 2018, 18.7% are provided to the small-scale fishing (SSF) sub-sector, including artisanal and subsistence fisheries, compared to the large-scale fisheries (LSF). Compared to the previous study which split SSF and LSF subsidies based on 2009 global fisheries subsidy data, the proportion within the capacity-enhancing category, which are known to exacerbate overfishing, increased from 11% to 17% while the proportion provided as beneficial subsidies decreased from 24% in 2009 to only 19% in 2018. Regional results show that the highest proportion to SSF is provided by African countries and the lowest proportion is provided by Europe (including Russia), with 34% and 11%, respectively. Recommendations include to remove capacity-enhancing subsidies across all sub-sectors and instead use available funds to support coastal fishing community projects with a focus on fisheries sustainability and social justice.

#2019-05 U. Rashid Sumaila & Travis C. Tai (2019) Ending overfishing can mitigate impacts of climate change. IOF Working Papers 2019 (05), 18pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: Marine fish stocks and the ecosystems they inhabit are in decline in many parts of our ocean, including in some European waters, because of overfishing and the ecosystem effect of fishing in general. At the same time, climate change is disrupting the physics, chemistry and ecology of the ocean, with significant consequences on the life it holds. While the positive effects of mitigating climate change on the ocean and marine life are currently being documented, papers that examine how ending overfishing could increase ocean resilience to climate change are less common. The goal of this paper is to review the current literature and conduct an analysis that demonstrate that ending overfishing and reducing other negative ecosystem effects of fishing would make fish stocks and marine ecosystems more resilient to climate change. Our findings suggest that fish are no different from people in that a healthy person is more likely to survive an epidemic than a person who is less healthy.

#2019-04 Brooks A. Kaiser (2019) Growth, Transition, and Decline in Resource Based Socio-Ecological Systems. IOF Working Papers 2019 (04), 56pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: Globalization transforms communities. Increased trade and technology can disrupt existing socio-ecological systems that may have persisted for hundreds or thousands of years. Whole socio-ecological systems may be destroyed or subsumed into a new dominant culture, as has occurred with many Indigenous cultures worldwide. In this context, I examine the Thule Inuit culture as a dynamic and multi-trophic socio-ecological system. Lessons from the study clarify fundamentals of trade and development: mutual benefits from trade rely upon equitable terms that sustain the original stewards of the ecological resource base; the ability to achieve such equitable terms is a function of governance mechanisms and capabilities; and the need for such institutional tools and governance mechanisms should be internally as well as externally recognized for all trading parties.

The multi-trophic model includes three layers: a composite ecosystem resource base, a resource- dependent human population, and a top trophic human group of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) holders connected through caloric productivity and use. I calibrate the model with what can be known or deduced from the historical record and ecological evidence. I examine how new stressors to the Thule Inuit system, including the foreign commercial whaling and fur trading that brought particularly rapid shifts from the 1820s forward, transformed the system dynamics. Differences in the ways in which the two commercial enterprises evolved across Inuit communities, particularly in terms of net changes in access to calories and new technologies, provide comparative insights into how socio- ecological systems can gain or lose as the introduction of trade and technology can shift relative rates of return amongst ecosystem components.

#2019-03 D. N. Edwards and E. Pinkerton (2019) Priced Out of Ownership: Quota leasing impacts on the financial performance of owner-operators. IOF Working Papers 2019 (03), 14pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs) have been widely promoted as a means to improve the conservation and economic outcomes of fisheries by enabling the transfer of quota access privileges to the most efficient operators who in turn have a strong financial incentive to safeguard the long-term sustainability of the fishery. The British Columbia Pacific halibut fishery has long been held up as an example of successful ITQ management. An in-depth investigation of this fishery, however, has identified significant failings of the ITQ system. The ownership profile of the fishery has changed dramatically under ITQs, transitioning from predominantly owner-operated to absentee owners and lessee fishermen. An analysis of fishing enterprise financial performance demonstrates the overwhelming impact of leasing on the viability of fishing enterprises. A representative owner-operator fishing enterprise leasing more than 80% of the quota that they fish, which characterizes all of the owner-operators that have entered the fishery since 2001, cannot earn enough from the fishery to re-invest, including replacement of the vessel or purchasing of quota. The fishery, under current leasing and purchase price conditions, is not self-sustaining as an owner-operator fishery. Socio-economic objectives for the fishery are not being met, raising important questions about the design and implementation of ITQ management systems.

#2019-02 D. N. Edwards and E. Pinkerton (2019) The Hidden Role of Processors in an Individual Transferable Quota Fishery. IOF Working Papers 2019 (02), 18pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: The economically and culturally important Pacific halibut fishery in British Columbia, Canada, managed as an Individual Transferable Quota fishery since 1993, has frequently been held up as an example of management best practices. This narrative of success has continued despite repeated warnings that there are serious problems with the fishery, including processors exerting ever greater control over the fishery, contrary to stated fisheries objectives. Administrative data from federal and provincial datasets were used to consider ownership and control in the halibut fishery, with a focus on processor quota ownership, leasing, and brokerage of leases. The analysis indicates that direct processor ownership of halibut quota, while more than doubling between 1996 and 2016, remains relatively low at less than 10% of the available quota. Processor control through the leasing of halibut, however, is much higher, accounting for more than half of all halibut quota transfers in 2016. Through strategies such as “holding licences”, processors increasingly act as hubs for leasing activity, which has shifted the balance of power in the fishery. This analysis (a) reveals that there is much more processor control than is obvious from a cursory review of ownership, (b) highlights approaches for assessing the level of processor control, and (c) recommends alternative government procedures for improving transparency and evaluating full spectrum outcomes of fisheries management such as equitable distribution of benefits.

#2019-01 D.N. Edwards (2019) Rise of the Investor Class in the British Columbia Pacific Halibut Fishery. IOF Working Papers 2019 (01), 15pp., Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries, University of British Columbia.

Abstract: Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs) have been promoted as a management approach to address many of the economic and conservation challenges encountered in fisheries. ITQs are expected to improve fishery outcomes based on assumptions about who owns the quota, how ownership is transferred and how ownership incentivizes stewardship. Changes in the ownership profile of the British Columbia Pacific halibut fishery were examined over a 25-year period. This analysis revealed that despite the halibut fishery being a traditionally owner-operator fishery, with owner-operators owning and catching more than 90% of the halibut in 1991, owner-operators have been increasingly marginalized in the fishery, catching 45% of the halibut in 2016 and owning 15% of the quota. The original grantees of quota from 1991 continue to own over half of the quota, and original grantees comprised half of the owner-operators active in the fishery in 2016. However, these original grantees have been steadily becoming a new investor class, non-existent in 1991, alongside new investors that have bought into the fishery as a source of income from leasing. A new dynamic has emerged in the fishery, with the separation of quota ownership from fishing operations. This raises questions about the assumptions underpinning the rationale for ITQs as an efficient market-based mechanism for fishery management and as a means to improve stewardship incentives. Also questionable are the equity, the long-term viability, and the objectives this fishery is serving with this new ownership structure.

CORU/IIED March 2019 William WL Cheung, Vicky WY Lam and Colette CC Wabnitz (2019) Future scenarios and projections for fisheries on the high seas under a changing climate. Changing Oceans Research Group / International Institute for Environment and Development - Working Paper 2019, 43pp.

Abstract: Marine biodiversity and ecosystems provide important benefits to human societies through fisheries. But the benefits are not shared equally among countries – and climate change will only exacerbate inequalities. Improving high seas fisheries governance would help redistribute benefits and reduce climate risks, especially in developing countries where many people depend on fish for their food and nutrition security, livelihoods and well-being. Developing countries are also among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. Here, the authors explore different scenarios of future fisheries governance and evaluate the benefits and trade-offs of alternative policy frameworks for governing fisheries under a changing climate.

Working Papers archive