In the U.S., market structures and the distribution of economic benefits in fisheries have rarely been examined using measures such as the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index and the Gini coefficient prior to implementing catch share programs, even though they are commonly used in other areas of economics. As a result, issues of potential concern to fisheries managers and participants (e.g., market power and a highly unequal distribution of economic benefits) were not properly analyzed before these programs were implemented, leaving them to be discovered years after the fact when it is far more difficult to implement management changes to address them because of institutional inertia and the embeddedness of the status quo. The inattention to these issues can be partly attributed to the lack of necessary data collection programs prior to the implementation of catch shares, though fisheries management economists have also sometimes not done their due diligence by raising these issues when these programs were being developed. Lack of funding and staff have probably also played a role.
The Gulf of Mexico red snapper and grouper-tilefish IFQ programs are a case in point. Using significantly more refined data collected since the programs were implemented, recent analyses indicate the distributions of economic benefits in these programs are highly unequal relative to other U.S. catch share programs, even though they have generally not become significantly more unequal since implementation, because they were highly unequal at the time of implementation. Further, although a recent market concentration analysis does not indicate market power is currently being exercised in any of the product, quota share, or quota pounds markets, its conclusions must be tempered by the fact that dealer ownership data and dealer selling prices (i.e., markups) are still not being collected, which prevented a more thorough analysis. The analysis also suggests that the distributions of economic benefits are likely even more unequal than the estimated Gini coefficients indicate. These findings largely explain the high level of dissatisfaction with these programs.