Measuring the Economic Value of Fisheries using Non-Traditional Methods

Project ID: 5621
Principal Investigator: Jonathan Platt
Research Topic: Ecosystem Needs
Funded Fiscal Years: 2006
Keywords: None

Research Question

Evaluating the economic impact on fisheries of constructing and re-operating water projects is an important consideration in many Reclamation studies. While methods exist for measuring use and nonuse fishery economic values, they traditionally require information on fish populations by alternative. For various reasons (e.g., the complexity associated with fish lifecycles, data limitations, time/budget constraints), Reclamation analysts often find it difficult to estimate changes in fish populations. Without information about fish populations, traditional applications of the methods cannot be applied and as a result, this often-important component is left out of the economic analysis.

Despite the lack of fish population estimates, biologists frequently can provide information on changes in habitat. Valuing habit does show some promise.

This research will attempt to answer the increasingly experienced question:

* How can we measure fisheries economic benefits without information on fish populations?

Need and Benefit

Economic analyses of fisheries impacts can play an important role in many Reclamation studies. Approaches for measuring commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries economic harvest/use values (e.g., market demand curves, travel cost models) and existence/nonuse values (e.g., contingent valuation surveys) exist, but typically use input information based on projected fish populations by the proposed project alternative. Without fish population information, traditional applications of these methods (i.e., any application based on fish populations) would not be possible. As noted above, it is not unusual for fish population information to be unavailable. Historically, the lack of fish population information has resulted in the fisheries component being left out of the economic analysis. Without quantification of the economic effects of a water project on fisheries, the results of any benefit-cost, regional economic impact, or other economic analysis could come into question.

As an alternative to fish populations, Reclamation biologists have often been able to estimate impacts upon the quantity or quality of fisheries habitat. While less directly applicable to economic valuation (as compared to fish population estimates), fisheries habitat measures do nevertheless show promise for economic valuation. The intent of this research is to evaluate a range of nontraditional methods or applications of methods for estimating fisheries economic benefits (in terms of both use and nonuse values) under frequently incurred situations where fish populations are unavailable in order to broaden Reclamation's economic valuation capability and thereby improve our economic analyses and decisionmaking/planning processes. Given a wide range of approaches or applications may potentially be identified and described, some of which may be more theoretically acceptable than others, it will likely also be necessary to address uncertainty within the analysis (e.g., probabilistic expected values, value ranges/sensitivity analyses).

Reclamation economic guidelines, such as the Economic and Environmental Principles and Guidelines for Water and Related Land Resources Implementation Studies (P&Gs), assume the existence of fish populations when estimating fisheries economic benefits. As a result, existing Reclamation guidelines focus in on the more traditional methods for estimating fisheries economic value. Traditional fish population based approaches/applications are insufficient in frequently experienced situations where fish population estimates are unavailable.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20