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Key processes underlying the impact of management tolls on the economic assessment of fleet status and evolution

Analysis of the observed trends in the dynamics of production allows a preliminary assessment of the impacts on fleet activity and fleet performance of different categories of management policies (e.g. capacity reduction programmes, TAC) and economics (e.g. fish prices, operating costs). Policies which favoured the renewal of certain fleets have had an impact on the global economic performance of those fleets, and on their capacity to absorb external shocks such as the market crisis, or the increase in fuel prices, relative to older fleets. Even if buyback schemes were not specifically targeted at smaller vessels, the fact that larger vessels performed better from an economic perspective entails reduced incentives to decommission vessels for their owners.

Hence the limited impacts of decommissioning policies on these vessels, observed in the study of South-Brittany trawler fleets. Most of the fleets investigated have reacted to reductions in TACs by shifts in target species and/or increasing their productivity in relation to the species subject to low quota. Depending on the fleets, these strategies have partially or completely offset the quota reduction in terms of revenue. In addition, price increases for low quota species have sometimes contributed to level up revenues. In other case however, reductions in total and average landings of certain species have been concomitant with reductions in prices.

This is an indication of the influence of changes in markets, driving the prices of landings, rather than these landings impacting prices. The fact that in some cases, an increase in total and average production of certain species is concomitant with an increase in the price of these species, also indicates that fleets change their effort allocation strategies in response to changes in the relative value of the different species they can catch.

In addition to management regulations, changes in the economic context in which fleets operate also have affected the fleets. As stressed above, changes in markets for fish have in some cases had a strong impact on the evolution of fleet revenue. Other changes observed in the fleets where cost data was available relate to the increase in the price of key inputs, particularly fuel price, in recent years. In some cases, the analysis however shows that the impact of higher fuel prices has been at least partly compensated by adaptations in the cost structure of fishing firms (e.g. decline in crew costs).

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