A realist evaluation of the individual transferable quota system used in Finnish herring fisheries

Magnus Hanstén , Päivi Haapasaari, Sakari Kuikka

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Rights-based management, such as the individual transferable quota (ITQ) system, is a popular approach for pursuing economic, social, and environmental sustainability in fisheries, with a variety of outcomes. This variety appears to be explained by the contextual differences between the targeted fisheries. By acknowledging that each fishery is unique, we need to apply holistic evaluation methods to understand the mechanisms causing different outcomes in fisheries interventions. Here, we apply the realist evaluation (RE) approach to evaluate the ITQ system implemented in the Finnish herring fishery. This study serves two purposes: (1) it outlines the realized outcomes of the Finnish management system in relation to the expected outcomes and (2) it introduces the RE method to the field of fisheries management. Measured in economic terms, the results indicate the new management system to be a success, although the benefits are more prominent for large-scale fishers. The context did not allow small-scale fishers to reap the theorized benefits of the ITQ system, leading to a somewhat more uncertain future for the sector. The RE approach proved to be a useful tool, well-suited to the evaluation of fisheries management systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberfsab196
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Oct 2021
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Baltic Sea
  • context-mechanism-outcome
  • fisheries management
  • ITQ,
  • arge-scale fisheries
  • program theory
  • mall-scale fisheries
  • sustainability
  • TFC

Field of science

  • Environmental sciences
  • Ecology, evolutionary biology


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