Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Cost and benefit of control strategies

Final Report Summary - COBECOS (Cost and benefit of control strategies)

The COBECOS project assisted the implementation of the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) through the conduction of a cost-benefit analysis of control schemes for management strategies and the provision of estimates regarding the potential economic benefits associated to the proper enforcement of management measures. Moreover, COBECOS defined optimal combinations and intensities of fisheries' enforcement tools that maximised social benefits.

The project resulted in the development of a theory based on the elaboration of empirical research involving intensive case studies and the estimation of relevant theoretical relationships. In addition, software which modelled enforcement alternatives was developed, allowing users to investigate the costs and benefits of various tools for numerous operating and management options. The tools were evaluated under varying conditions to demonstrate the general applicability of the proposal.

The regulations against fisheries' overexploitation normally consisted of controlling fishing activities through limitations in licensing, quotas and fishing effort and had to be accompanied by an enforcement system in order to have the desired effects. The latter imposed a significant operation cost in the sector. Most examined cases indicated that an increase in the control level was accompanied by an augmentation of the compliance and social benefits to the point where the costs of enforcement outweighed the benefits. The maximum advantages did not normally coincide with full compliance to the regulations, due to the significant associated costs. As a result, imposing higher sanctions in case of illegal activities appeared to form a viable alternative to the increasing effort for rules' implementation.

COBECOS was highly innovative since it was the first complete research project which theoretically and computationally addressed the problem of estimating the assets and costs for the application of control strategies in the fisheries' sector. The developed model could be used at either national or international levels and responded to practical management needs. COBECOS was divided in nine interrelated work packages with the following objectives:
1. literature review;
2. data collection;
3. theoretical modelling and elaboration of the conceptual system;
4. data harmonisation;
5. estimation of theoretical relationships;
6. software development;
7. application of the model to specific fisheries, calibration and testing;
8. simulations' elaboration and; finally
8. formulation and generalisation of the conclusions and preparation of the project documentation.

The project did not distinguish between management systems during the conceptualisation of the enforcement theory. The dynamics of each fishery conditions were modelled as simply as possible, while the number of exogenous variables included in the analysis was kept to the strict minimum. After the completion of the principal theory, an attempt to include multiple fisheries' activities and management practices was undertaken. During this stage different combinations of management controls constituted separate management systems.

Controls were classified in four categories, namely biological management methods, direct economic restrictions for the increase of operations' profitability, taxes and subsidies and, finally, property rights. Moreover, managerial limitations were classified as input, output or efficiency restrictions. The total allowable catch (TAC) restraints, which could be imposed for either biological or economic purposes, often formed an aggregate restriction. Therefore, the enforcement problem mainly ought to examine the method of TACs implementation. It occurred, under all simulated conditions, that enforcement costs were by far the only determinant of optimal use of management tools.

A variety of probable tools for regulations' implementation was included in the analysis to represent the usual conditions in different European fisheries. For each management measure numerous control tools with different relative efficiencies, detection capacities and level of sanction were applied. The options were included in the developed software, which was an open source code, designed for users who were unfamiliar with programming. Nevertheless, it also provided sufficient flexibility to allow for expert users' interventions. The software was accompanied by tutorials and manuals providing details for its installation and implementation and for the interpretation of the results. The generic code was also assisted by the development of subroutines to take into account the specific conditions of some case studies.

COBECOS successfully conducted a cost-benefit analysis of control schemes for management strategies in European fisheries according to the CFP. Moreover, the developed generic methodology could identify optimal combinations and intensities of enforcement tools that maximised the benefits for the society. Therefore, COBECOS proposals could be helpful for managers, control agencies and national authorities in order to better allocate resources so that optimal control levels were achieved at the lowest possible costs.