Regulating Biological Resources: Lessons from Marine Fisheries in the United States

71 Pages Posted: 12 May 2023

See all articles by Eyal Frank

Eyal Frank

University of Chicago

Kimberly Oremus

University of Delaware

Date Written: May 11, 2023


Can policy sustainably manage economically valuable biological resources? We find evidence it can, with the use of science-based decision rules. In 1996, with United States fish populations in decline, Congress overhauled fishing laws with scientific thresholds for rebuilding overfished stocks. The law’s impact is contested, and lawmakers have spent a decade debating its reauthorization. We develop the first causally interpretable evaluation of this law, exploiting the fact that the European Union has comparable fisheries but only recently developed similar laws. Compiling the largest dataset to date on US and EU fishery status and management, we examine fish populations that decline to unhealthy levels and measure the effect of a policy that aims to rebuild them to health. We find that treated stocks increase by 50% relative to these counterfactuals. Though the policy constrains catch, we find both catch and revenue ultimately rebound and stabilize at or above baseline levels.

Keywords: natural resources, resource management, common-pool resources, fisheries

Suggested Citation

Frank, Eyal and Oremus, Kimberly, Regulating Biological Resources: Lessons from Marine Fisheries in the United States (May 11, 2023). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2023-63, Available at SSRN: or

Eyal Frank (Contact Author)

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Kimberly Oremus

University of Delaware ( email )

Newark, DE 19711
United States

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