Optimal and Open Access Harvesting of Multi-Use Species in a Second-Best World*

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Abstract

Expansion of human populations and activities has caused increased conflicts between wildlife and humans. As a result, the distinction between resource and pest species has become blurry. We propose an economically-based classification of species based on a multi-use bioeconomic model. The classification of the steady state population of a species is shown to depend on both species' density and economic factors. We extend earlier work on multi-use (resource-pest) species by applying the theoretical model to a developing country context where property rights to wildlife are imperfectly enforced, so that second-best trade measures are often applied by the international community to promote conservation. Upon calibrating the model using data for the African elephant, we derive three further results. First, when comparing the optimal stock of a multi-use species to the open access stock, we find that the ranking in terms of abundance is ambiguous. Second, and consistent with existing literature on resource management in a second-best world, our case study supports the idea that trade bans have ambiguous effects on wildlife abundance. Third, due to a bifurcation effect characterizing the multi-use model's solution, strategic and temporary subsidizing by the North may enable them to free ride on conservation efforts of the South henceforth.

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