Regulatory Change, Market Structure, and Fatalities: The Case of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Fishery

  • Sami DakhliaEmail author
  • Akbar Marvasti


In fisheries, regime shifts from common-pool to tradable individual quota rights have led to a reduction in race-to-fish behavior—in particular under adverse weather conditions, and thus to a reduction in the rate of fatal injuries. At the same time, tradability of quota rights has led to some fleet consolidation, along with a shift to larger vessels, which may have also affected safety. We isolate the role of changing fleet composition and size in the overall reduction of fatal injuries by simulating a counterfactual scenario: what weather conditions fishermen would brave if quota rights were individual but not tradable and thus could not have been a factor in fleet consolidation. Looking at the specific case of the U.S. reef fish fishery in the Gulf of Mexico to calibrate our model, we find that consolidation boosts the safety gains by 10–15%: while the remaining active vessels are inherently less safe and target much larger annual catches (thus finding it more difficult to avoid poor weather conditions), they are also more efficient, thereby reducing overall labor-hours and exposure to risk.


Quota Commons Occupational hazard Firm size Fisheries 

JEL Classification

J2 Q22 K2 D2 



The authors thank Devin Lucas of the Centers for Disease Control and James G. Law of the U.S. Coast Guard for data and Eric Thunberg for valuable feedback on an earlier version.


The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA, whose support Grant EA-133F-12-BA-0034 is gratefully acknowledged.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S.; foreign copyright protection may apply  2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rollins College of BusinessThe University of Tennessee at ChattanoogaChattanoogaUSA
  2. 2.Southeast Fisheries Science CenterNOAAMiamiUSA
  3. 3.Coral GablesUSA

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