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Having it all: can fisheries buybacks achieve capacity, economic, ecological, and social objectives? Teh, Louise S L; Hotte, Ngaio; Sumaila, Ussif Rashid Jan 11, 2017

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RESEARCH Open AccessHaving it all: can fisheries buybacks achievecapacity, economic, ecological, and socialobjectives?Louise S. L. Teh1*, Ngaio Hotte2 and U. Rashid Sumaila1* Correspondence:l.teh@oceans.ubc.ca1Fisheries Economics Research Unit,Institute for the Oceans andFisheries AERL 2202 Main Mall,Vancouver, British Columbia V6T1Z4,CanadaFull list of author information isavailable at the end of the articleAbstractThe objective of this study is to assess the performance of fishery buybacks so as todetermine the conditions under which positive socio-economic outcomes can occurduring the process of fisheries adjustments. We do this by conducting a desk topreview and supplementing the literature with targeted interviews with experts whohave direct knowledge or experience with the implementation of buybacks. Wefocus on four case studies: Australia, the United States, British Columbia (Canada),and Norway. The outcome of each buyback was assessed in terms of the extent towhich it achieved its capacity, economic, ecological, and social objectives. Our resultsindicate that buybacks can be successful in achieving specific programme objectives,such as reducing fishing capacity and increasing economic profits, at least in theshort term. However, none of the buybacks evaluated were a resounding successdue to the presence of latent permits or licences, effort creep, and continuedreinvestment in the fishery. Enabling conditions for positive social outcomesincluded a strong economy, accountable leadership, and social assistanceprogrammes tailored to local fishing communities. This study is useful in informingfuture buyback programmes’ design and implementation.Keywords: Fisheries buybacks, Overcapacity, Fishing effort reduction, FisheriesadjustmentIntroductionBuybacks of fishing vessels, licences, permits, and gear are a management tool used toaddress overcapacity, overexploitation of fish stocks, and distributional issues associ-ated with fisheries management failures (Squires et al., 2006). They have been imple-mented in fisheries worldwide, including in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, theUnited States (U.S.), Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and European nations. In general,buybacks are implemented to reduce fishing capacity with the ultimate goal of achiev-ing one or more of the following three goals: 1) restoring profitability of the fishery(i.e., addressing capacity and economic conditions); 2) conserving and/or rebuildingfish stocks (i.e., addressing ecological conditions); and 3) redistributing catch rights,and providing compensation to those who would otherwise lose out from fishery ad-justment (i.e., addressing social conditions) (Holland et al. 1999). Other reasons forusing buybacks include modernising and restructuring fleets, conserving biodiversity© The Author(s). 2017 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 InternationalLicense (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, andindicate if changes were made.Teh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 DOI 10.1186/s40152-016-0055-zand protecting ecological public goods, and providing disaster or crisis relief (Grovesand Squires 2007).Removal of vessels can lead to increased fish biomass, higher catch rates forremaining vessels, and lower vessel and industry costs (Martell et al. 2009). Politically,buybacks are a favoured tool by government for achieving these outcomes compared tofishery regulations because they are often acceptable to industry, making them import-ant for progressing towards improved biological and economic conditions, at least inthe short term (Weninger and McConnell 2000; Groves and Squires 2007). However, ithas been noted that buybacks are of limited use for reducing fishing mortality on a longterm basis if there is continued investment in newer, more efficient, and more powerfulvessels and technology to replace exiting boats (Weninger and McConnell 2000).Buyback schemes have not been unanimously successful at achieving the objective ofremoving fishing capacity (e.g., Spagnolo and Sabatella 2007; Sun 2007). Effort creep,whereby fishers who participated in buybacks re-enter the fishery once conditions im-prove, is a prime reason for the failure of buybacks in achieving long term reduction infishing capacity. The effectiveness of vessel or licence buybacks may also be reducedwhen they create an expectation of future assistance by government. As the anticipatedbuybacks reduces the overall risk in the fishing industry, it can result in a higher levelof investment in fishing boats than there would otherwise be, or encourage some fish-ers to hold onto inactive permits (Newby et al. 2004; Clark et al. 2005). In Norway, boatowners abandoned a preliminary plan for an industry financed buyback when theylearned that government authorities were prepared to use public funds for a buyback(Hannesson 2007).In addition, buybacks have not always succeeded in helping to rebuild fish stocks. Awell-known example is from Newfoundland (Canada), where Northern cod stocks stillhave not recovered more than two decades after the 1992 fishing moratorium and ves-sel buybacks (Hamilton and Butler 2001; Schrank 2005). Evaluating whether buybacksare effective for rebuilding fish stocks is confounded by other physical and environmen-tal variables affecting the stocks. The fact remains that seepage of fishing effort1 backinto the fishery undermines efforts to reduce fishing mortality, and this has led some toconclude that buybacks alone will not have a significant impact on resource conserva-tion (Holland et al. 1999).The collapse of fish stocks can have devastating effects on fishers and coastal com-munities (Charles 2006). Ironically, fisheries adjustments such as buybacks, which areintended to provide assistance to fishers, can sometimes produce the same devastatingblows to fishing communities. Buybacks tend to disproportionally affect independent orsmaller operators. In some adjustment programmes, such as one of the BritishColumbia (Canada) salmon buybacks, small communities lost most or all of their ves-sels, with economic consequences for their entire communities (Grafton and Nelson2007). While some fishers have been able to adjust to other jobs, others have struggledto make the transition. The loss of cultural identity and the demise of a fishing lifestyleis another social concern with buybacks. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park StructuralAdjustment Programme in Australia (see Department of the Environment and Heritage2004) resulted in a range of negative social impacts, including business losses, legal dis-putes, social and physical dislocation, marriage breakdowns, and local unemployment(Taylor-Moore 2006).Teh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 2 of 18Buybacks can raise distributional or equity concerns, since they often target a selectgroup of fishers, e.g., the most active fishers, or those with inactive licences. Some buy-backs have also been used to transfer vessels to marginalized groups, such as to aborigi-nal fishers, as was the case in one of the British Columbia (B.C.) salmon buybacks(Gislason et al. 1998a). Such programmes have the potential to encourage industry de-pendency on government support, as fishers come to expect government funded bail-outs (Holland et al. 1999; Hamilton and Butler 2001). Targeting buybacks toward selectgroups may also bring about inadvertent effects on fish stocks. For example, targetingthe most active fishers may provide others with the incentive to increase fishing pres-sure before the implementation of the buyback in order to qualify for program benefits(Clark et al. 2005; 2007). Meanwhile, some buybacks penalize fishers who have reducedpressure on overfished stocks and moved away from the overfished fishery, thereby cre-ating disincentives for future effort reductions.Overall, it appears that buybacks do not always ease the socio-economic transitionfor fishing communities and industries as they leave the fishery. Yet, given the need forfisheries rebuilding worldwide (e.g., Worm et al. 2009; Sumaila et al. 2012), there is aneed for fisheries adjustment policies such as buybacks to be designed so as to helpminimise the socio-economic burden on fishers and their communities while rebuildingdepleted fishery resources. Indeed, fishing vessel and licence buyback schemes continueto be used in fisheries worldwide. For instance, a Net Fishing Buyback Scheme was re-cently implemented by the Australian Queensland Government in August 2016 (TheState of Queensland 2016). A buy-back scheme was also included as part of the refor-mation of Thailand’s fishing licence regime in 2016 (Ministry of Foreign AffairsThailand 2016), while in Hong Kong, fishing vessel buybacks may potentially be usedin conjunction with the establishment of proposed Marine Parks. Thus, given that buy-backs are still being used widely as an effort adjustment instrument, an important andtimely question for fisheries management is: Under what circumstances can buybackshelp ease the socio-economic impacts to fishing communities during adjustments to re-build depleted fisheries?To address this research question, we review the literature on buyback programmes(e.g., Read and Buck 1997; Holland et al. 1999; Clark et al. 2005; 2007; Curtis andSquires 2007; Squires 2010), and supplement this with expert interviews. We focus onfour case studies from Australia, the United States, British Columbia (Canada), andNorway. For each case study, we assess whether the buyback has contributed to fisher-ies rebuilding while alleviating social and economic costs to the fishing industry. Thevalue of this study lies in uncovering the lessons learned in how fishery buybacks cancontribute to dual socio-economic and rebuilding goals so as to improve the design offuture fisheries adjustment schemes.MethodsFour case studies were chosen: i) The Australian southeast trawl; ii) U.S. Pacificgroundfish trawl; iii) B.C. Pacific salmon; and iv) Norwegian purse seine. We first con-ducted a desktop review of existing literature on the selected case studies. This infor-mation was then supplemented with in-depth telephone interviews conducted betweenDecember 2007 and February 2008 with 9 experts who were either involved in themanagement, or had extensive knowledge and research experience about the respectiveTeh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 3 of 18fishery buybacks. The experts were from Australia, Canada, and the United States, andincluded fishery managers, academics, and consultants. The purpose of the expert in-terviews was to obtain their opinion of how the buyback had performed in terms offour indicators: i) capacity - measured by number of licences, permits, vessels, or fish-ing concessions; ii) economic value - measured by ex-vessel revenue, profits, and quotavalues; iii) social value – measured by employment, perceptions and attitudes aboutsafety issues and distribution of buyback benefits, and presence of social programmes; iv)ecological benefit – change in the status of fish stocks, discard and bycatch rates.Requests for interviews with each expert were first done through email. If the inter-viewee agreed to an interview, LSLT and URS then conducted the interview throughtelephone. In general, each interview took around one hour to complete. We used anopen-ended questionnaire format in order to allow the interviewee to elaborate ontopics of interest.We used the process outlined in Fig. 1 to identify enabling conditions under whichpositive socio-economic outcomes emerge from buybacks. First, we contextualised con-ditions prior to implementation of the buyback, including the drivers, goals, targets,and characteristics of the buyback (Table 1).After buyback implementation, we determined its overall performance, including theensuing social, economic, and ecological outcomes, and whether the buyback achievedits intended target. This enabled a comparison within (pre and post buyback) and be-tween case studies, thereby allowing us to draw out the circumstances under whichpositive socio-economic outcomes may occur. Ultimately, these lessons learned cancontribute to improving future buyback design (Fig. 1).Case studiesAustralian Southeast Trawl Fishery (SETF)Background and context The SETF targets over 100 species of fish and invertebrates,and involves the use of otter board and mid-water trawl, and Danish seine (see Grieveand Richardson 2001 for a history on the SETF). An Individual Transferable Quota(ITQ) system was introduced to the SETF in 1992 as a means to address fleetFig. 1 Framework for case study analysis, illustrating how lessons learned can be used to contribute toimproved design of future buybacksTeh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 4 of 18Table1SummaryofcontextualinformationforeachbuybackcasestudyAustraliasoutheasttrawlU.S.PacificGroundfishB.C.salmonaNorwaypurseseineGoal1)Reduceovercapacityofthefishery;2)EndongoinglitigationbythefishingindustryoveranITQsystemwhichwaspreventingtheimplementationofthefisherymanagementplan.1)Reducecapacity;2)Increaseproductivityfortheremainingoperators;3)Stabilizethefisheryfinancially;4)Conserveandmanagegroundfish.1)Reducesizeofsalmonfleet;2)assistfishersandcommunitiestoadjusttochanges;3)Protectandrebuildsalmonhabitat.1)Reducecatchcapacityby25%andrestorefleetprofitability.DriversforbuybackManyfisherswereunwillingtoparticipatein,andsupportthenewITQmanagementsystem(Ellistonetal.2004;Meere2006).Fisherywasdeclaredtobeinastateofdisasterin2002;9speciesofgroundfishoverfished;andprofitabilitycontinuedtodecline(ShawandConway2007).Overcapacityinthefisherysince1960s(Sinclair1960).Declineofthesalmonindustrystartinginthelate1980sandcontinuedconcernsaboutsalmonstocks,poorreturnsandprices(Walters1995;Schwindtetal.2000).Duringthe1970sfleetcapacityincreasedeventhoughthefleetwasalreadyovercapitalised(Hollandetal.1999;Hannesson2007).Yearofbuyback199820031998–2000Starting1979tomid-1990sTargetedcapacityreduction50permits.35%reductioninnumberofpermits.Voluntarybuyback(vesselownerswhowantedtoretirelicensessubmittedabidforthepurchaseoftheirlicence).Reducecatchcapacityby25%.CostofbuybackAUD1.7million(AUD4.4millionsetasidetobuyoutpermits).BuybackwasfinancedbyaUSD10milliongrantand20yearloanofUSD36millionfromtheFederalgovernment(NMFS2004).CAD200millionforbuybacks,CAD100millionforprotectingandrebuildingsalmonhabitat,CAD100millionforhumanresourceassistance/development.NOK1038.2million.a TheB.C.salmonbuybackprogramme(BCPacificFisheryAdjustmentandRestructuringProgramme,PFAR)consistedof3components:i)fisherybuyback;ii)socialassistanceprogrammes,includingretrainingforemploymentoutsidethefisheryandfinancialassistancetobusinessesandcommunities;iii)rebuildingtheresource(protectingandrebuildingsalmonhabitat)Teh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 5 of 18overcapacity (Elliston et al. 2004; Meere 2006). The ITQ system was not well receivedby the fishing community, who were unhappy with the method of quota allocation.Subsequently, a large number of litigation challenges were brought against the Australiangovernment (Kaufman and Geen 1998; Meere 2006). Under the uncertainty over the sta-bility and security of the ITQ management system in place, many disenfranchised fisherswere not willing to participate in the quota market and support the new management ar-rangement. As a result, the autonomous adjustment (i.e., the process in which fishers vol-untarily sell their quota to owners of more profitable vessels, without the need forgovernment intervention) which had been anticipated with the introduction of ITQs didnot happen. Consequently, the Commonwealth government introduced and funded astructural adjustment programme in 1998.Economic and social outcomes Economic performance improved following the buy-back (Fox et al. 2006), indicated by rising profits for all remaining vessel classes, al-though a rise in output prices may have accounted for some of the gains. Expectedprofitability and the value of vessel licences also rose from AUD 60,000 to AUD 85,000(Fox et al. 2006) and productivity gains for all vessels increased by an average of 39%(Fox et al. 2006). However, recipients of the targeted financial assistance indicated thatthe payments were not sufficient to make up for their loss in quota value under thenew ITQ system (Meere 2006).Many fishers who left the fishery switched to other fisheries, retired, or shifted toshore-based activities, thus the blow to them was not as great. The hardest impact fromthe buyback was felt by crew in small ports, as it became difficult for them to maintaincontinuous employment. Instead, according to one interviewee, they had to relocatefrom port to port to find fishery-related work. Infrastructure and shore based services,such as operations of freezer trucks in these small ports, were also affected. However,there was a rapid change in these ports from working fishing ports to tourist or retire-ment towns. Due to the economic boom in Australia in the mid to late 2000s, fishershad little difficulty finding alternative employment because of the heightened demandfor labour, particularly in the fields of truck transportation and mineral extraction(Australian marine scientist, pers. comm. 2007).Despite the ease of finding alternative employment, some fishers chose to remain inthe fishery due to the social context of fishing communities. In most cases, the fishersin Australia are of Mediterranean descent and have strong ties to their communities,and were more inclined to remain in the fishery to maintain their cultural identity.They also felt that there was prestige associated with being the best fisher in town(Meere 2006). Thus, these social aspects might have affected the buyback regardless ofthe compensation or economic alternatives available.Overall performance The buyback was effective in ending litigation over the initialITQ allocation (Meere 2006), one of its primary objectives; however, it failed to achieveits targeted effort reduction, and reduced a large amount of latent rather than active ef-fort. Thus, the buyback did not achieve as large a reduction in effort as had been hoped(Professor of marine science in Australia, pers. comm. 2007). Moreover, the shift inTeh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 6 of 18fishing effort to other fisheries may have led to a negative impact on shark populationsin the southeast Australian trawl fishery (Table 2).The lack of a market for the SETF’s ageing vessels could have been a reason for the rela-tively low rate of adjustment (Elliston et al. 2004). Nevertheless, the buyback, in combin-ation with ITQ management, is believed to have reduced effort in the SETF whileincreasing returns to the remaining operators (Newby et al. 2004). There was also evi-dence of improved economic performance (Fox et al. 2006). Overall, the buyback was use-ful as a transition strategy because it was needed to address the poor allocation system,and nudged the existing system toward autonomous adjustment (Fisheries consultant,pers. comm., 2007). However, the implementation of a second buyback for SETF boats in2005 indicated that the 1998 buyback did not perform as well as intended.U.S. Pacific Groundfish trawl fisheryBackground and context The historical context and factors leading to the decline ofthe U.S. Pacific groundfish fishery has been examined by various authors (e.g., Hanna2000; Mansfield 2001). In brief, the Pacific groundfish fishery (covering the states ofWashington, Oregon, and California) was a relatively unimportant fishery until the late1970s, when there was an upsurge in fishing effort, resulting in the fishery beingbrought under a limited entry system in 1994. Due to bycatch and species concerns,trip limits decreased throughout the late 1990s to early 2000s. During this period therewas also growing concern about the economic viability of vessels. By the late 1990s thePacific groundfish fishery was overcapitalized, and the industry began to experience re-source scarcity and decline (Shaw and Conway 2007).In 2000, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), the management agency forPacific groundfish, estimated that 70% of the groundfish vessels were redundant. Thesame year, the U.S. Department of Commerce declared the fishery to be in a state ofdisaster, and in 2002 the PFMC declared nine species of groundfish to be overfished.Following the declaration of the Pacific groundfish fishery disaster in 2000, there werenumerous programmes implemented by state governments to help fishers and commu-nities cope with the decline, the results of which are described in Shaw and Conway(2007). Facing continued declines in profitability, Pacific groundfish fishers turned tothe National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for help. In 2003, the NMFS introduceda buyback programme.Economic and social outcomes Annual groundfish revenues per permit were expectedto increase by 53% following the buyback (PFMC and NMFS 2004). Preliminary ana-lysis suggests that profitability was positively affected by the new programme: combinedrevenue of the groundfish sectors was USD 54 million in 2011, compared to an annualaverage of USD 38 million during 2006–2010 (NOAA 2012). Average vessel landingswere comparatively lower than during the previous five years and there was only asmall decrease in the number of vessels during 2011 (NOAA 2012).It was the opinion of interviewees that remaining fishers were in a better financialstate than they would have been without the buyback. Some trip limits were increased,leading to a steadier stream of fish to supply the fresh market. According to one inter-viewee, there would have been more bankruptcies and vessels operating at the marginsTeh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 7 of 18Table2SummaryoffishingcapacityandecologicaloutcomesfrombuybacksAustraliaSoutheastTrawlU.S.PacificGroundfishB.C.SalmonNorwaypurseseineCapacityActualremovalof27permits(50targeted),13ofwhichwereinactive.Effectivereductionineffortof<5%(AMCSearch2000).35%reductioninnumberofpermits.91/263vesselsparticipated.Effectivecapacitywasreducedbutalargeamountoflatenteffortremained.Fisherystilldeemedovercapitalisedafterbuyback.Totalof1406vesselsandlicensesremoved(DFO2002);however,manyofthesewerevesselswithleasteffectivepower.Latentpermitswereaconcernandsomebuybackparticipantsshiftedtootherfisheries.Fishingeffortwasnotsubstantiallyreduced(DFOofficial,pers.comm.2008)Totallicensevolumedecreasedbyabout30%between1979and1985(Flaatenetal.1995).Buybackseffectivelyreducedtotalfleetcapacity.EcologicalFishingeffortlargelydisplacedtosharkfishery,potentiallyaffectingthesharkpopulation.Catchesofmanytargetedspeciesremainedthesameandsomeevendeclined(Fisherieseconomist,perscomm.2008).Discardsdecreasedafterbuyback.Buybackfacilitatedtheimplementationofarea-basedlicenses,whichresultedinlowerdiscardandbycatchratesfollowingthebuyback(Fisheryconsultant,percomm.2008).Improvementinfishstockssuchasherring,capelin,andbluewhitinginlate2000s(Fisherieseconomist,pers.comm.2008).Spawningherringstockrecoveredto1960slevelintheearly2000s(Arnasonetal.2001).Teh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 8 of 18without the buyback. Following the buyback, ex-vessel revenues rose by 20–30%,although the reason behind the increase in revenue is not yet fully understood. Repay-ment of the USD 36 million loan for the buyback began in 2005 and is ongoing. How-ever, as of 2012, PFMC still considered eight species of groundfish to be overfished(PSMFC 2014), primarily due to bycatch.Despite the absence of an explicit social objective, the buyback programme did bringgreater stability and economic viability for those operators remaining in the fishery.This enabled operators to pay more attention to vessel maintenance, thus increasingsafety (Fisheries economist, pers. comm. 2007). At the same time, the buyback helpedto create more positive attitudes and improve working relations between the fishing in-dustry and management (Curtis and Squires 2007). However, it also had a dispropor-tionate effect on some communities, notably, Crescent City, Eureka, and Bellinghamsaw the biggest percentage reductions in vessels (88%, 61% and 100%, respectively)(NMFS 2004: The After effects of the Pacific Groundfish Limited Entry Trawl BuybackProgram A Preliminary Analysis, Unpublished).Although economic assistance was provided following the 2000 groundfish disasterdeclaration (Shaw and Conway 2007), interviewees were not aware of financial assist-ance being provided to the displaced fishers and communities during the 2003 buyback.A study conducted in two western fishing communities, Astoria and Newport, foundthat the buyback raised several concerns from community members, including thefollowing (Langdon-Pollock 2006): There was a shift in effort from the groundfish fishery to other fisheries, as fisherswere able to buy inactive permits, new boats, and gear with the payments theyreceived from the vessel buyback. For instance, some fishers used the buyback fundto purchase more crab pots; Jobs of captains, skippers, and crew were affected for those boats that were notowner-operated; The buyback did not benefit the local fishing community in situations where theowner of the purchased vessel did not live in the Astoria and Newport area; and There was a flood of surplus fishing gear and equipment in the market, aspurchased vessels were stripped because they could not be used as fishing vesselsanymore, which affected shipyards and gear and electronic suppliers.Overall performance Overall, the buyback was considered successful in terms of cap-acity reduction. It also led to ecological benefits, as the buybacks appeared to facilitatea decrease in bycatch and discard rates (NOAA fisheries official, pers comm. 2008).However, the buyback did not remove all the excess capacity. In fact, the level ofremaining capacity in the trawl fleet could have been reduced by another 30% withoutharming the ability of the fleet to harvest the quota (Fisheries economist, pers. comm.2007). Operators remaining in the fishery benefited from increased revenues, althoughthe effect on net profitability was not determined. On the other hand, some communi-ties suffered disproportionately with the removal of almost all of their vessels.From the industry’s standpoint, the gains from the buyback were not as great as ex-pected because restrictions were tightened (i.e., lower trip limits) after the buyback.Teh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 9 of 18Nevertheless, they were better off than they would have been without the buyback.One issue which was also noted in other fisheries (e.g., Australian SETF), was the effortcreep back into the fishery due to the reactivation of latent permits. However, oneinterviewee still felt that effective capacity had declined, and was less than it would havebeen without the buyback. This was because the buyback was structured such that vesselswere rated by catch history, thus leading to the removal of the most productive vesselsand a decrease in effective capacity. In this regard, the programme was successful.British Columbia salmon fisheryBackground and context Concerns about the excessive size of the British Columbiasalmon fleet (consisting of troll, gillnet, and purse seiners), and its effects on the fish-ery’s sustainability and financial viability were raised as far back as the 1960s (Sinclair1960). A province wide vessel licensing system, which included a buyback component,was first introduced in 1969. The first vessel buyback took place in 1970, with subse-quent buybacks in 1981, 1993, 1996, and 1998–2000 (Grafton and Nelson, 2007). Someof these buybacks were funded by industry, whereas others were by the federal govern-ment. Despite these buybacks, the salmon fishery was still considered to be overcapita-lized in the late 1990s, with a cost-benefit analysis by Schwindt et al. (2000) showingthat the cost of harvesting salmon exceeded its value. Indeed, it was found that benefitsarising from the multiple buybacks were short-lived due to capacity and effort creepback into the fishery over time (Grafton and Nelson 2007).Starting in the late 1980s, an increase in farmed salmon supplies globally, a breakdownin trade barriers, and lowered salmon returns contributed to the decline of the salmonindustry (GSGislason and Associates 2001). Due to continued concerns about salmonstocks (Walters 1995), poor returns and prices, and the effects of the reforms from the1996 buyback, the government saw a need to further rationalize the salmon fishery,leading to the introduction of the Pacific Fishery Adjustment and RestructuringProgramme (PFAR) in 1998.Economic and social outcomes Landings declined after the buyback, possibly due topoor marine productivity, although it is difficult to formally attribute this cause(Department of Fisheries and Oceans official, pers. comm. 2007). At the same time,salmon prices declined, driven by poor market demand for wild salmon due to aquacul-ture. Grafton and Nelson (2007) indicated that the buybacks were beneficial to fisherswho remained, although it was uncertain whether the benefits were large enough tomaintain the industry at a financially viable state. In contrast, one interviewee, aDepartment of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) official, suggested that fishers’ profitabilitywas likely negatively affected due to the combined effects of lower fishing opportunitiesand depressed salmon prices. In addition, Grafton and Nelson (2007) found that manyfishers felt that they had not gained the full potential benefits from the reduction invessels. At the same time, it was thought that the fleet would have been much moreunprofitable without the buyback (Fisheries consultant, pers. comm. 2008). Interest-ingly, licence value increased after the buyback, with the nominal price of salmon li-cences more than doubling for seine licences and tripling for gillnet and troll licencesdespite large declines in salmon prices and landings (Grafton and Nelson 2007).Teh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 10 of 18It was initially anticipated that PFAR would lead to improved economic viability.However, a survey of fishers who participated in the buyback indicated that the major-ity of both successful and unsuccessful bidders felt that the PFAR had not helped thecommunity (DFO 2002). The buyback suffered from distributional issues: First, it didnot benefit all members of the fishery – crew members, shore workers, packers, andseine net owners were not eligible for any of the buyback payments (Grafton & Nelson2007). Second, a higher proportion of those who exited the fishery were smaller boatsand independent operators, resulting in severe employment problems in small northerncommunities where these boats were based (Gislason et al. 1998a). GSGislason andAssociates (2001) estimated that the number of jobs in the salmon industry wasreduced by half between the early 1990s and the end of the 1998–2000 buybacks. Theloss in fishing jobs had repercussions in other sectors as well, as the buyback alsoaffected the fishing supply sector (e.g., gear makers and processors).The impacts of the social component of PFAR had mixed results (Gislason et al.1998b; Gislason and Lam 1999; GSGislason and Associates 2001; GSGislason andAssociates 2002a;b). Overall, the financial assistance programme was considered to be asuccess, whereas the retraining programme did not achieve its intended results(Fisheries Consultant, pers. comm. 2007). The success of the financial assistanceprogramme was due mainly to managerial competence – the programme was led by astrong executive director, and run by local people (mayors) rather than government bu-reaucrats, thus instilling a sense of accountability for the programme’s performance.On the other hand, the retraining programme had limited success because many of thepeople it aimed to retrain had low education, no interaction with mainstream society,and were simply not job ready. These factors hindered them from integrating into jobsin wider economy. Furthermore, the retraining programme was based on a model usedfor retraining workers in the central manufacturing industry, which did not cater to theneeds of the fishing industry.Overall performance The biggest achievement of the B.C. salmon buyback was remov-ing the targeted 1,400 licences from the fishery. An unanticipated ecological benefit ofthe buyback was the substantial reduction in bycatch. This was probably because thebuyback removed a lot of the less effective fishers who did more searching and there-fore had increased chances of getting bycatch (DFO official, pers. comm. 2008).Nevertheless, effective effort was not reduced substantially, and the anticipated im-provement in economics did not materialize (DFO official, pers. comm. 2008). It can-not be said that the PFAR improved the economic performance of the fishery; inparticular, profitability was likely negatively affected due to reduced fishing opportun-ities and declining salmon prices. Socially, the buyback led to negative impacts such asloss of jobs, cultural identity, and way of life. The community assistance component ofPFAR helped to a certain extent, but was largely found to be ineffective.Overall, the buyback was not considered to be a success in terms of achieving itsintended objective of reducing effort, despite producing some positive social gains. In-deed, Schwindt et al. (2003) concluded that the buybacks in the late 1990s did not solvethe fundamental problems of the fishery. In particular, interviewees viewed buybacks asa short term measure that was incapable of addressing the long term structuralTeh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 11 of 18adjustment required in the fishery. Instead, buybacks merely reduced the severity of theproblems facing the salmon fishery, but did not address the underlying incentives tofish. After the buyback, fishers still faced the same incentives to upgrade vessels andgears (Grafton and Nelson 1997). In light of declining stocks, this led to the situationwhere more and more vessels and licences had to be removed from the fishery, as evi-denced by the five buybacks the salmon fishery required over two decades.The Pacific salmon fishery continues to be managed using area-based licensing bygear type. Due to continued concern about salmon populations, Coho and Chinookcatches have been highly restricted since the mid-1990s; by 2004, salmon onlyaccounted for 15% of the total landed value of the Pacific commercial fishery, downfrom 50–70% in the 1980s (Parsons 2010). An indication that the previous set of buy-backs was not as effective as anticipated was the allocation in 2011 of another CAD28.5 million, provided by the U.S. Government, to decrease the size of the Pacific trollfleet along the West Coast of Vancouver Island through licence buybacks (DFO2011,Aboelsaud 2012; PSC 2013).Norway purse seine fisheryBackground and context The Norwegian purse seine fleet targets pelagic species suchas herring, capelin, mackerel, and blue whiting. There was free access into the Norwegianpurse seine fishery until the late 1960s, when the Norwegian spring spawning herringstock collapsed (Bjorndal and Gordon 2001), likely due to a combination of overfishingand deteriorating environmental conditions (Arnason et al. 2001). A series of buybackprogrammes targeting different vessel types have been implemented in Norway since1979. Norway’s buyback programmes from 1979 to the mid-1990s were in most part usedfor large vessels (purse seiners and trawlers), while those since the mid-1990s have beenspent on small boats normally less than 28 metres long.Economic and social outcomes Profitability of the purse seine fleet, measured interms of wage potential per boat, did not appear to increase until the mid-1990s, afterthe buyback programme had ended and fleet capacity flattened out. Total catches ofpelagic fish, the majority of which were taken by purse seiners, showed a decliningtrend from 1979 to the early 1990s, but total value of the catch increased during thisperiod. Total catch value was around 70% higher in 2001 than in 1979, mainly due tohigher prices. At the same time, Hannesson (2007) noted that costs (excluding labourbut including capital costs) were around 15% lower in 2001 than in 1979, which mayhave been due to the buyback programme and trading of concessions. Overall, the buy-back seems to have had a positive effect on profitability.Although the buyback did not have an explicit social objective, the aim of main-taining a balanced distribution of the fishing fleet had an underlying social object-ive in the north, as northern Norway is the most fishery-dependent region in thecountry. There were several financial aid avenues for fishers who became unemployeddue to fisheries capacity adjustment. The first was the Fishermen’s Guarantee Fund, whichprovided fishers with partial pension from age 60–67. Fishers who become unemployeddue to buybacks or fleet downscaling could also apply for unemployment payments(Hersoug 2006).Teh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 12 of 18Hersoug (2006) examined the wider social context of fishers and fishing communitiesand how they were affected by changes in Norwegian fisheries policies. According toone interviewee, it was not difficult for fishers to find jobs outside fisheries once theyleft the industry. Similarly, Hersoug (2006) found that there had been no significant in-crease in the number of unemployed in northern Norway since the late 1980s. For theperiod 1980–2005, the unemployment rate in the most fishery-dependent counties washigher than the national average, but below that of The Organisation for EconomicCo-operation and Development (OECD).Overall performance The buybacks could be considered an economic success as mea-sured against their main objective of improving profitability. Ecologically, the buybacksalso allowed for a recovery in spawning herring (Table 2). The fishery continues to beprofitable and operate in the absence of subsidies or other economic instruments tosupport rebuilding of stocks (OECD 2012). As fleet productivity continues to increase,fishery managers expect the number of fishers and vessels to continue to decline due tofurther adjustments in fleet capacity (OECD 2012).One of the general concerns about government-funded buyback programmes is thatthey create a moral hazard situation, whereby the industry becomes accustomed to de-pending on government support (Hamilton and Butler 2001) and being bailed out ofunprofitable conditions (Clark et al. 2005; Squires 2010). According to Hannesson(2007), it is possible that money from the purse seine buyback may have been rein-vested in the fishery. Thus, one interviewee felt that Norway’s experience highlightedthat government should not become involved in the buybacks, particularly since the in-dustry recognized the need to reduce the number of boats and had been willing to fi-nance its own buyback back in 1979. This highlights the message from Clark et al.(2005) regarding the problem of vessel owners anticipating buybacks. In addition, itwas emphasized that government-funded buybacks should be one-time events, used asa means of paving the way for self-rationalization in the industry (Fisheries economist,pers. comm. 2008). It was felt that ITQs would have been a better option for rationalis-ing the purse seine fleet.Lessons learnedWe found that buybacks can be successful in achieving specific programme objectivessuch as reducing capacity and increasing economic profits, at least in the short term.However, none of the case studies can claim to be a resounding success due to factorssuch as the presence of latent permits or licences, effort creep, and continued reinvest-ment in the fishery, which undermine the initial nominal reduction in fishing effort. Interms of rebuilding fish stocks, interviewees indicated that it is difficult to attributechanges in ecological conditions (e.g., fish stock status) to the buyback alone due to thepresence of other environmental factors. Similarly, Hannesson (2007) contended thatcontrolling the capacity of fishing fleets will not necessarily be sufficient to control theexploitation of fish stocks, due to environmental influences.Nonetheless, based on the available literature and expert interviews, it is justifiable tosay that buybacks can be useful to achieve goals of capacity reduction and increasedprofitability within fisheries (Groves and Squires 2007). Several interviewees expressedthe view that fishers and the fishing industry were better off after buybacks than theyTeh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 13 of 18would have been otherwise, although in many cases the benefits received were not asgreat as had been expected (e.g., Australian SETF, U.S. Pacific groundfish trawl). At thesame time, buybacks can have negative repercussions for fishers at personal and com-munity levels, as well as induce behaviours which ultimately lead to more costly, lessefficient buyback results (e.g., time inconsistency problem noted by Clark et al. 2005,and moral hazard noted by Hannesson 2007).The case studies indicated that positive socio-economic outcomes emerged underconditions such as the presence of a strong, broader economy, sound and accountableleadership, and social assistance programmes tailored to the needs of local fishing com-munities, among others (Table 3). These ‘lessons learned’ highlight the importance forfuture buybacks to incorporate management tools and approaches that develop andstrengthen coastal community resilience and adaptive capacity so that fishers them-selves have the ability to respond to changes and uncertainties in their socio-economicand natural environment (e.g., Hanna 2000).Discussion and conclusionThe four case studies demonstrated that post-buyback conditions can sometimes beimproved in terms of better profitability and ecological status of exploited fish stocks.However, while capacity reduction or profitability targets can be fully or partiallyachieved, buybacks may also simultaneously create social issues. For instance, consoli-dation effects similar to that experienced by ITQs, wherein the hardest impact is felt bycrew in small ports, arose in the Australian Southeast Trawl fishery.Table 3 Lessons learned from buyback case studiesCategory DescriptionImplementationmethod-A trade-off must be made between removing expensive, powerful vessels versuscheaper, less efficient vessels. The potential for remaining low-efficiency or latentvessels to be converted into actual fishing effort should be considered.- Having buybacks occur over multiple rounds might be more effective as they reducestrategic behaviour by fishers in terms of asking prices for their vessels, offer moreinformation about vessel characteristics, and aid in the process of price discovery.However, a single round reduces the potential for strategic behaviour among bidders.- Ample financial resources are required to remove the most powerful vessels.Minimising economicimpact- Socio-economic impact on displaced fishers can be mitigated by broader economicconditions e.g., Australia’s strong economy offered many alternative employmentopportunities for displaced fishers.- The presence of flexible labour market policies increases the changes of successfuladjustment for fishers, e.g., Norway’s experience.Social considerations - Social drivers can have a strong impact on individuals’ decision to participate in abuyback, e.g., individuals’ proximity to retirement, cultural ties to fishing.- Social assistance programmes (e.g., retraining, skills upgrading) must be tailored tosuit the needs of local fishing communities. Ideally, the programme should be led bysomeone who is familiar with, and accountable to, the local community.- If certain fishery groups or communities are going to face large scale unemployment,gradual, rather than sudden, implementation will work better.Fisher behaviour - Fishers’ responses to policies must be considered when designing adjustmentprogrammes.- To prevent operators from obscuring their catch history (e.g., by increasing catchlimits after the announcement of a buyback), there is a need to have baseline catchlevels for vessels that were latent or had low levels of activity.Timing of buyback -Timing of a buyback is important e.g., it would have been more useful to have abuyback prior to implementing an ITQ system for the Australian SETF.- If there is no effective output control in the fishery, the deliberation period betweenannouncing and implementing the buyback should be kept short. This is necessary tocurb fishers from trying to increase their catch limits.Teh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 14 of 18Buybacks can be considered to be part of crisis or disaster relief packages, such as inthe U.S. Pacific groundfish buybacks, but the “relief” ends up in the form of financialcompensation to fishers for leaving the fishery, whereas social programmes for fishersand fishing communities have been provided separately (e.g., Hanna 2000; Shaw andConway 2007). In the case of B.C. salmon, where buybacks were part of a broader ad-justment assistance package, there was mixed success in helping fishers acquire newskills and adjust to new non-fishing livelihoods (Gislason and Lam 1998). One contrib-uting factor was the assistance programme failed to take into account the socio-economic context of the fishing communities.It is noteworthy that many interviewees viewed incentive programmes such as ITQsas better options compared to buybacks because ITQs address the underlying incen-tives driving fishers to increase their fishing power (Arnason 1998). At the same timehowever, it is acknowledged that ITQs are not a panacea (Clark et al. 2010; Sumaila2010; Soliman 2014). Indeed, despite showing inconsistent success in terms of socialbenefits, the use of buybacks may be less likely to give rise to problems such as‘armchair fishing’ and the concentration of power, which are often seen as negativesocial consequences of other fisheries adjustment instruments such as ITQs(Pinkerton and Edwards 2009).Although the main purpose of fishery buybacks is to address overcapacity and over-exploitation of fishery resources (Squires 2010), the buyback process invariably has asocio-economic impact upon the fishers who leave, and those who remain in the fish-ery. Yet, social considerations do not appear to be a priority of buybacks; only one casestudy (B.C. salmon) had an explicit social objective to help fishers and communities ad-just to non-fishing lifestyles after they left the fishery. Yet, as buybacks continue to beused worldwide, identifying the conditions under which they can be socially beneficialfor fishers and fishing communities is crucial for improving the success of future fisher-ies adjustment schemes.The enabling conditions identified in ‘lessons learned’ draws attention to the need forimproving communication and trust between the fishing sector and governance institu-tions in order to mitigate negative social consequences. Further, understanding the het-erogeneity within the fishing community is also essential for ensuring the equitabilityof the buyback. In this respect, adaptive co-management, which emphasises collabor-ation, learning, and power sharing in ecosystem management (Armitage et al. 2007),may be a potential tool for fostering the cooperation and knowledge sharing necessaryto help ease the moral hazard issue with regards to fisher behaviour, as well as aidin creating a more cost-efficient and smoother process for the buyback implemen-tation itself.It is noted that most of the case studies here and in the literature tend to focusmore on assessing the economic aspects of buybacks, e.g., the impact on fleet cap-acity and cost effectiveness, and less so on social aspects. This is likely due to themajority of buybacks lacking social objectives in the first place. As such, the valueof our study is in showing the conditions under which positive social outcomescan arise from buybacks, even though these may not be targeted outcomes. Bydoing so, this study contributes to the ongoing discourse in designing fisheriesmanagement strategies to achieve conservation objectives as well as being socio-economically acceptable.Teh et al. Maritime Studies  (2017) 16:1 Page 15 of 18Endnotes1Seepage, or effort creep, refers to the tendency for effective fishing effort to moveback into the fishery after nominal effort has been reduced (Squires et al. 2016).AcknowledgementsWe thank the following expert interviewees for participating in our study: S. Bose, M. Burden, S. Freese, G. Gislason, R.Hannesson, P. Leipzig, F. Meere, B. Riddell, and K. Sainsbury. This study was part of a larger project funded by theNatural Resources Defense Council. LSLT and URS acknowledge the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Councilof Canada for funding the OceanCanada Partnership.FundingThis study was part of a larger project funded by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The funder did not play arole in writing this paper.Authors’ contributionsURS conceived the study. URS and LT developed the questions for expert interviews, conducted the interviews, andwrote the manuscript. LT conducted the literature review while NH contributed to writing the paper. All authors readand approved the final manuscript.Competing interestsThe authors declare that they have no competing interests.Author details1Fisheries Economics Research Unit, Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries AERL 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver, BritishColumbia V6T1Z4, Canada. 2Faculty of Forestry 2424 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada.Received: 21 May 2016 Accepted: 14 December 2016ReferencesAboelsaud, Y. 2012. License buyback plan disappointing for local commercial salmon fishery.. Tofino-Ucluelet WesterlyNews, http://ukees.com/blog/2012/01/salmon-license-buyback-dissapointing/. Accessed 20 Mar 2016.Armitage, D., F. Berkes, and N. Doubleday (eds.). 2007. 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