Catch and release: Regulation and evasion in the Chilean fish market


Published 28.07.21
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Less frequent enforcement of regulations on illegal fish sales makes it more difficult for vendors to find loopholes and increases overall compliance

Audio file

Read “Slippery fish: Enforcing regulation when agents learn and adapt” by Andres Gonzalez-Lira and Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak here.

Despite attempts by regulators to protect against market failures and negative externalities, there will always be market actors ready to circumvent these restrictions for personal gain. In this VoxDevTalk, Ahmed Mushfiq Mobarak discusses his recent work with co-author Andres Gonzalez-Lira in which they analyse Chilean fish vendors’ attempts to skirt government regulations on fish sales. Monitoring ground-level fish market sales and testing various enforcement mechanisms to catch rule breakers, they explore what works best to achieve compliance. 

The authors find that fish vendors are notably observant of government enforcement mechanisms, and that less frequent and less predictable monitoring of illegal fish sales actually led to greater compliance by way of making it more difficult for vendors to learn and adapt to regulations. Targeting demand for illegal fish, the authors also tested several information campaigns to reduce households’ illegal fish consumption, which were effective, but less so than the most effective enforcement mechanisms. Their results highlight that regulations must be designed with the anticipatory nature of market actors in mind, and that coupling with low-cost interventions can yield significant benefits.