Institutional Economics and Fisheries Management
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Institutional Economics and Fisheries Management

The Case of Pacific Tuna

Elizabeth H. Petersen

Elizabeth H. Petersen argues that economists and other social scientists are increasingly focusing their attention towards institutions (defined as humanly-devised rules) as critical determinants of economic, social and political growth and development. Institutions responsible for the governance of fishery resources have experienced dramatic reforms over the last few decades, stimulated by increased competition for access and exploitation of resources, leading to emerging scarcity of these very resources. This book aims to contribute to the biological and economic sustainability of fish resources worldwide by providing an analysis of fisheries management in the context of new institutional economics.
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Chapter 1: The New Institutional Economics and Natural Resource Management

Elizabeth H. Petersen


1 In the last two decades, economists and other social scientists have realized that institutions, defined as humanly-devised rules, significantly shape human behaviour. This realization has led to a new field of study called New Institutionalism. In the context of economics, the term ‘institution’ does not refer to organizations such as financial institutions, business corporations or government agencies. Rather, organizations are founded on and operate according to their institutional framework. North (1994) succinctly writes that if institutions are the rules of the game, then organizations and their entrepreneurs are the players. Institutions consist of either internal constraints (for example, taboos, customs) or external rules (for example, constitutions, laws). Internal institutions, often called informal institutions, are rules that have evolved spontaneously through experience and learning. External institutions, sometimes referred to as formal institutions, are designed, imposed and enforced from above by a political authority. North (1991) comments that formal or 1 2 Institutional economics and fisheries management informal institutions exist to govern almost all situations of exchange and transformation. The study of institutions within economics is concerned with one particular subset of human exchange and transformation: that of economic exchange and the allocation of resources and consumer goods and services. Veblen (1909) and Coase (1937, 1960) were the first to write of institutions, although the new institutional economics grew in influence after the work of Williamson (1979, 1985, 1998), Williamson and Masten (1999), Matthews (1986) and North (1991, 1994). Gordon (1954) may have been the first to investigate...

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