North American Journal of Fisheries Management (2014)

DOI: 10.1080/02755947.2013.869281


Marine mammal stock assessments provide information that is valuable to public sector management and the private fishing sector; however, data are costly to collect. The precautionary approach, which is widely used in fishery and marine mammal management, advocates a conservative management decision with priority to the resource when there is uncertainty regarding the impact on the resource from human activity. The potential biological removal (PBR) control rule of the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act explicitly incorporates uncertainty in input variables into the determination of allowable levels of human-induced mortality for a stock. Less uncertainty results in higher PBR values for a given stock level. Variations in government funding levels can disrupt the scientific data collection that is necessary for PBR calculation. We present an economic net benefit framework that examines the indirect value of information from marine mammal stock assessments to the commercial fishing industry. Using the harbor porpoise Phocoena phocoena and the U.S. Atlantic sink gill-net fishery as a case study, we estimated the difference between total public sector data collection costs and total private sector benefits from increased profits. Net benefits represent a measure of the value of information to society, while the difference in profits measures the value of the information to the private sector. Several results are forthcoming. First, the optimal allocation of funding showed that abundance surveys are a more cost-effective means to reduce uncertainty in PBR input variables than increasing observer coverage of the fishing industry. Second, for all levels of PBR in this empirical example, total benefits to the private sector for a higher PBR exceeded the costs of collecting additional scientific data to increase the precision of input variables and thus increase PBR. Since net benefits are positive, the private sector may consider funding of scientific data collection for marine mammals as a way to reduce uncertainty, thereby allowing a higher PBR value.