Property Rights in New Zealand Abalone Fisheries

By Terry Anderson, J. Grewell
2001 | Case No. P28
Roger Beattie became involved in the business of abalone fisheries as an owner and operator in 1976. At the time a good diver could typically catch 500 kilograms of abalone in a day. With the price averaging NZ$0.50 per kilogram, a day’s work returned about NZ$250. Over time abalone prices slowly rose to NZ$1 per kilogram so that in 1983, Beattie was annually taking home approximately NZ$45,000. Convinced that there was more money to be made in the fishery where he dove, Beattie began researching other fisheries, market trends, and processing options. He then organized the local divers to put pressure on the local processing plant in order to match the returns being offered overseas. Then, in 1986, the rules of the game changed. With the introduction of individual transferable quotas (ITQs), abalone divers were given a property right in the fishery. No longer did the commons rule. These ITQs improved the health of the abalone fishery and helped Roger Beattie move from a small time owner/operator to a successful entrepreneur. He began seeking out opportunities to improve his bottom line and the local environment.
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