Combining interdisciplinary approaches to evaluate policies on bottom trawl fisheries in China over seven decades

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.

Zhang, X., Singh, G. & Vincent, A.C.J. 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.