Problems with Deemed Values

About 1994 I made a proposal incorporating a different form of "Deemed Values" - where the only currency that could be used to pay for overcatch was currency derived from fish. This was a modified version of the by-catch trade off scheme. (Other variations on the same theme exist.)

There are some fundamental problems with a deemed value regime.

There are two major ones that I will deal with here, randomness, and open vs closed systems.


If all fishermen could control their catch, then deemed values would be great - because they really would represent consequences for actions taken by an individual - and I would fully support them being at a high level. But that isn't reality.

All fishers face a random element. The smaller the fishing operation, and the more species involved, the higher that random element becomes as a proportion of catch.

In fisheries with few species, the random element can be under 5% - for target species it can be under 1%.

Where fishers use broad spectrum methods, and catch multiple species, the random element can increase dramatically - to over 20% of the total catch, and several hundred% for some stocks within that catch.

Having a large number of vessels, or larger vessels with sophisticated electronics, reduces (but does not remove) this random element.

Open vs closed

Fisheries are closed systems. They have a certain amount of energy coming in, which is converted to a certain biomass of primary production, which can support various balances of secondary interactive systems.

Money is part of an open economic system.

Trying to balance a closed system with elements from an open system can never guarantee stability. It can certainly trend that way, and chaotic systems will from time to time disturb that trend.

If one is trying to balance a closed system, it is far more logical to do so within the bounds of the closed system.

One can do so with tools that represent and correlate to well understood elements of an open system (money/dollars), but derive them from elements contained entirely within the closed system (TACCs, threat to stock, overdraft rates, ...).

The advantage of such a system is that it allows individuals to achieve very close to their expected economic return, with minimum disruption to the ecological systems. (It does restrict product flows through factories as compared to a Dollar based DV system, so expect resistance from purchasers of fish, and speculators in quota {that includes many of the SeaFIC Board).)

The moment you apply an external deemed value against one part of the catch, you increase the incentive to maximise the return from the remaining quota, and TACCs tend to be maximally caught, or slightly over-caught, rather than operated slightly below the maximum available rights.

Flexibility to carry forward a portion of un-used rights is a vital part of the integrity of the incentive structures within such a regime.

The ACE system I proposed had this ecological integrity, and maintained confidentiality of catches (within a year).

The reality of trading within a year is - yes it happens, and most of it is "reciprocal arrangements" - with fishers fishing into Fish Receivers, or organisations doing swaps. Very little real trading happens until everyone knows what they have caught. Real trading starts in September - always has and always will.

The higher the penalty regime, the less incentive anyone has to trade during the year. The penalty regime sets the trading threshold, not the economic return available from fish.


The 1996 Act as structured is likely to drive most small fishermen, and small fishing communities (including all those hopeful iwi), out of business within 5 years. This is exactly what some want - I do not believe that it is what most people want.