Intergenerational Valuation of Fisheries Resources can Justify Long-term Conservation: a Case Study in Atlantic Cod (Gadus morhua)

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Where the conventional model of discounting advocates aggressive harvest policies, intergenerational discounting could have been used to render the historic gross overfishing of Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) economically unappealing compared with a more conservative long-term strategy. Under these discounting approaches, we compare the historic harvest trend from 1985 (and projected postcollapse earnings) with theoretical optimal harvest profiles determined by an ecosystem model. The optimal scenarios generate less initial harvest than the historic profile but maintain the resource and provide greater yields over the long term. At a discount rate equal to market interest, we demonstrate that it was more economic under conventional valuation to harvest the cod stock to collapse than it would have been to sustain the population. However, under intergenerational valuation, the sustainable optimal scenarios outperform the actual harvest profile. Application of conventional discounting by fishing consortiums may be partly to blame for depletion, yet management fell short of even that ideal.

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Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, v. 62, issue 5, p. 1104-1110