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Defining economic welfare in fisheries

Jensen, Frank, Nielsen, Max, Ellefsen, Hans
Fisheries research 2019 v.218 pp. 138-154
consumer surplus, fisheries, leasing, opportunity costs, prices, producer surplus, surpluses
Fishery economists often define economic welfare inconsistently because the resource rent or profit is maximized even when a producer and/or consumer surplus exists. In this paper, we propose a solution to this problem by departing from general economic concepts such as resource rent, producer surplus and consumer surplus. We argue that the rents and surpluses, which ought to be included in economic welfare, depends upon whether: a. fishing effort is heterogeneous or homogeneous; and b. the output price is constant or non-constant. To investigate which assumptions that are most reasonable, we have conducted reviews of the existing fishery economic literature. Based on these reviews, we conclude that the total resource rent, producer surplus and consumer surplus are significant, implying that the sum of these rents and surpluses is the most appropriate definition of total economic welfare. We also argue that the resource rent (opportunity cost) rather than the profit (actual cost) ought to be included in a welfare function for fisheries. Based on our own simple calculations, we show that the actual cost is greater than the opportunity cost, implying that the resource rent is greater than the profit.