Redistribution of benefits but not defection in a fisheries bycatch-reduction management initiative
Reducing the capture of small fish, discards, and by-catch is a primary concern of fisheries mangers that propose to maintain high yields, species diversity, and associated ecosystem functions. Modified fishing gear is one of the primary ways to reduce by-catch and capture of small fish. The outcomes of gear modification may depend on competition with other gears using similar fishing grounds and resources and the subsequent adoption or defection of fishers using modified gears. We evaluated the adoption, size, catch-per-unit-effort (CPUE), yield, and income responses among gears in a coral reef fishery where a 3-cm escape gap was introduced into traditional traps. The size of fish increased in the modified traps but the catch of smaller fish increased among the other competing gears. Additionally, there was no change in the overall CPUE, yields, or per area incomes but rather redistributions of yield benefits towards the competing gears. For example, estimated incomes of fishers that adopted the traps remained unchanged but increased for net and spear fishers. Fishers using escape-gap traps had a high proportion of income from larger fish, which may have led to a perception of benefits, high status, and no defections. The less polarizing neutral-win rather than a strong loss-win tradeoff outcome may explain the full adoption of escape-gap traps 3 years after their introduction. Trap fishers showed an interest in negotiating other management improvements, such as increased mesh sizes for nets, which could ultimately lead to catalyzing community-level decisions that would increase their own profits.