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Measuring Value

"I believe that the great part of miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates
they have made of the value of things."
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790

Decision makers need reliable information that they can understand and integrate with other information to evaluate options for management action. In 2004 NASCO agreed guidelines for incorporating social and economic factors in decisions under the Precautionary Approach. Evaluation of economic and social benefits requires specialised skills. For example, the European Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture Advisory Commission (EIFAAC) describes a range of techniques for evaluating the benefits of recreational fisheries (Parkkila et al., 2010). Environmental economics is a growing field reflecting not only the need for better information but also the capacity provided by increased computing power for data analysis and modelling.

How is the evaluation to be used? Before starting any evaluation, it should be made clear why it is being done and the context in which the evaluation will be used. Sometimes the purpose is strategic, to inform regional or national policy like the recent Canadian study published in 2011 (Gardner Pinfold, 2011). This comprehensive study evaluated the economic activity associated with different areas of salmon-related expenditure. It also assessed the willingness of the public to pay for a sustained programme of stock restoration and the economic impact of the expanded recreational fishery this would support.

Alternatively, an evaluation may be needed to understand the consequences of a change in local fisheries management or an impact on habitat, perhaps as part of a cost-benefit analysis. Ideally, a full-scale study should be commissioned to evaluate the specific change proposed. Due to resource constraints, this is often impractical. Where they exist, strategic regional or national models can provide average values to evaluate local changes. For example, this has been done in parts of the United Kingdom to assess the impact on regional employment and household income of changes in angling activity (Mawle and Peirson, 2009). Without a full local study or regional model, the other option is to extrapolate from studies elsewhere, adapting values to reflect local circumstances. This practice known as ‘benefits transfer’ may be less reliable.

‘It’s the economy’: Decision makers often focus primarily on economic impact, local changes in jobs and income. Whilst highly relevant in many circumstances, it can be misleading if not foolish to ignore other aspects of value. For informed decisions, an evaluation should consider and convey changes in economic impact and economic value as well as social aspects, sometimes termed ‘human dimensions’.

Ecosystems services: Salmon are part of ecosystems, both marine and freshwater, that provide a range of benefits to society. So salmon and the benefits they provide should not be considered in isolation or indeed ignored in decisions affecting other aspects of their ecosystems. Rather an evaluation of benefits should consider all ecosystem services that would be affected.

TEEB (2009)
From: The Economics of Ecosystems ad Biodiversity. TEEB (2009)

Geographical Scale: Depending on the issue being considered, it may be appropriate to evaluate economic and social impacts to provide perspectives at local, regional, national, or even international scales. Decision makers will be helped by an understanding of how costs and benefits are distributed. What may be a good option at one scale, could be a poor one at another.

Timescale: The costs and benefits associated with any decision may be unevenly distributed over time as well as geographically and socially. One way of addressing this is the concept of 'Net Present Value' whereby the future stream of costs and benefits can be capitalised at their current value.

Bioeconomic modelling: Ideally, models should be developed that can relate changes in ecosystems to changes in stocks, to changes in fisheries and harvests, or other ecosystem services, to changes in economic value. Given the limited accuracy with which we can predict stock changes, the outputs of such models should be used with caution. Nevertheless, one of the key benefits of building such models is they require us to develop our understanding of the dynamic processes supporting salmon stocks and associated benefits to society.

Assumptions: An evaluation of changes in economic and social benefits is a prediction. As such it should make clear the assumptions (physical, biological, economic and social) on which it is based. Usually the current position is taken as the yardstick but it should be considered whether that is appropriate. For example, where a salmon stock is recovering from long-term damage, its current status and the associated benefits might be a poor indicator of potential future status and benefits.

NASCO has agreed goals and key issues in relation to social and economic aspects of the wild Atlantic salmon and has developed Guidelines for Incorporating Social and Economic Factors in Decisions under the Precautionary Approach. Read more...

Further Information

Parkkila, K.; Arlinghaus, R., Artell, J., Gentner, B., Haider, W., Aas, Ø., Barton, D., Roth, E., and Sipponen, M. (2010). Methodologies for assessing socio-economic benefits of European inland recreational fisheries EIFAC Occasional Paper No. 46. Ankara, FAO. 2010. 112p

Gardner Pinfold (2011). Economic Value of Wild Atlantic Salmon. Prepared for Atlantic Salmon Federation. September 2011. 70pp.

Mawle, G.W. and Peirson, G. (2009). Economic evaluation of inland fisheries. Managers report from science project SC050026/SR2. Environment Agency, Bristol, United Kingdom. 52pp.

NASCO (2004). Guidelines for incorporating social and economic factors in decisions under the Precautionary Approach. CNL(04)57.

Simpson, D. and Willis, K. (2004). Method for assessing the heritage value of net fisheries. Environment Agency Report. ISBN 1-84432-307-2. Environment Agency, Bristol, UK. 104pp.

TEEB (2009). The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity. TEEB for National and International Policy Makers. Part II: Measuring what we manage: information tools for decision-makers. Chapter 4: Integrating ecosystem and biodiversity values into policy assessment.36pp.