Working papers

Why Natural Disasters are a Disaster in Common Property Resources

Global assessments consistently show that developing countries tend to suffer the most from natural disasters. Nevertheless, there are still many uncertainties regarding the mechanisms behind this outcome. In this paper, I postulate that institutional regimes are one of the factors influencing these observations. More specifically, property rights for natural resources. Using a standard model for renewable resource extraction with irreversible investment, I show that poorly and weakly defined property rights incentivize users to invest in ways that exacerbate immediate losses from and increase the cost of recovery after natural disasters. I test these predictions by examining investment patterns across institutional regimes in Chilean small scale fisheries before and after the tsunami of 2010. I find statistically significant evidence that weak property right regimes encourage behavior that directly and indirectly increases the cost of natural disasters.

Global opportunities for mariculture development to promote human nutrition (with Halpern, B., Liu, O., and  Wilson, M.)

An estimated two billion people worldwide suffer from micronutrient malnutrition, and almost one billion are calorie deficient. With human population expected to approach 10 billion by the middle of the century, providing adequate nutrition is a primary global challenge. Seafood is one of the most important sources of both protein and micronutrients for millions of people around the world, and yet production from wild capture fisheries has stagnated. In contrast, aquaculture is the world’s fastest-growing food production sector and now provides over half of all seafood consumed globally. Mariculture, or the farming of brackish or marine species, accounts for roughly one-third of all aquaculture production and has received increasing attention as a potential supplement for wild-caught marine fisheries. Given current nutrition levels, seafood dependence, and economic landscapes, how and where can we prioritize future mariculture developments to have the greatest benefit for global nutrition? This study addresses this question by analyzing global patterns in seafood reliance, malnutrition levels, and economic opportunity; where they overlap indicates where mariculture has the greatest potential to improve human nutrition. We found that island nations in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean are consistently identified as high-opportunity countries. An in-depth case study analysis corroborates global analysis results and highlights key challenges to ameliorating malnutrition through mariculture development, including policy infrastructure, government stability, and local consumption of farmed fish.


Molina, R. &  Costello, C., Transboundary Marine Protected Areas. Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists. [Submitted]

Countries exploiting transboundary fisheries face strong incentives for over- exploitation. This basic economic insight has been validated empirically; transboundary fisheries tend to be in worse condition than fisheries in single nations. Thus, transboundary fisheries pose a significant, and globally ubiquitous, management challenge. Attempts to solve this challenge through cross-country cooperation have been largely unsuccessful because defection is often more attractive than adhering to cooperative agreements. We explore the economics of an alternative solution, a transboundary marine protected area (TMPA), and derive the conditions under which it can improve profits and stock biomass, even in the presence of individually-rational non-cooperation across countries. We find that well-designed TMPAs have the potential to overcome non-cooperation across countries; this result is strengthened when stocks have relatively low growth rates. A well-designed TMPA can earn higher profits for both countries, increase stocks in both countries, and reproduce the fully cooperative outcome.

Palacios-Abrantes, J., Herrera-Correal, J., Rodriguez, S., Brunkow, J., & Molina, R. Evaluating the Bio-Economic performance of a Callo de hacha (Atrina Maura, Atrina tuberculosa & Pinna rugosa) fishery restoration plan of La Paz Cove, Mexico. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Resources. [Submitted]

Small Scale fisheries are large contributors to regional economies and livelihoods in coastal communities in Latin America. Mexico is one of the main seafood producers of this region. Nevertheless, overfishing and poor management strategies have led to the collapse of many of its fisheries. The callo de hacha scallop fishery of La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, is an example of the overfished fisheries. In 2009 the Mexican government closed the fishery in La Paz Cove, due to unsustainable levels. The present study evaluated the recovery efforts in the Cove, and the dynamics between an NGO and a fishing community working towards the restoration of this pen-shell’s fishery. After four years of closure and active monitoring of the recovering process, the callo de hacha population has increased in reference to the 2011 estimate. For scenarios of uncertainty are presented. For all of them, the fishery if harvested now, would be profitable.  Moreover, the involvement of the NGO and the fishing community created social capital, which was essential for the restoration process. Having an actively involved community, helped raise funds for the fishing closure, and helped fishers comply with Mexican legislation, and foster community building and self-organization.

2012. Molina, R., Cerda, R., González, E., & Hurtado, F. Simulation model of the scallop (Argopecten purpuratus) farming in northern Chile: some applications in the decision making process. Latin American Journal of Aquatic Resources, 40(3): 679-693. Link

Aquaculture farming is a complex system integrating several disciplines, including biology, engineering and economics, all of which need to be correctly intertwined to have a profitable and environmentally sustainable activity. During the past recent years, scallop (Argopecten purpuratus) farmers in northern Chile have come to comprehend the hard way that aquaculture producers operate in a complex and dynamic environment where natural and economic factors are in constant change. Thus, to keep a profitable and competitive business in today’s world, aquaculture farm managers are in need of relatively easy to use tools for efficient and timely decision making. Harvest size and time, mortality and growth rates, stocking rates, costs and market prices are important variables and parameters to monitor, where decisions with respect to their levels or values have to be made. In this context, nonlinear and dynamic quantitative bioeconomic models should become valuable tools for periodic decision making in the aquaculture business. This paper shows how to emulate Chilean scallop farming using a simulation model that mimics some of the industry’s features. The model presented here focuses on a scallop aquaculture center that uses the common technology approach of pearl-nets and lanterns of the northern region of Chile, and analyses the farming strategies based on harvesting size.

Book chapters

Norambuena, R., González, E., Molina, R. & Gomez, A. 2017. Impacts of Climate Change on Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture in Chile (Chapter 10 – Aquaculture). In: Phillips, B. & Pérez, M. (eds) The Impacts of Climate Change on Fisheries and Aquaculture. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ, USA. [In press]

2013. González, E., Norambuena, R., Molina, R. & Thomas, F. 2013. Evaluación de potenciales impactos y reducción de la vulnerabilidad de la acuicultura al cambio climático en Chile [Potential Impacts and Reduction of the Aquaculture Vulnerability to Climate Change in Chile]. In: Cambio climático, pesca y acuicultura en América Latina: Potenciales impactos y desafíos para la adaptación. Taller FAO/Centro de investigación Oceanográfica en el Pacifico Sur Oriental (COPAS), Universidad de Concepción, Concepción, Chile.  FAO Actas de Pesca y Acuicultura. No. 29. Roma, FAO,  275-335p. Link

Research in progress

The link between market power, productivity, and dynasties in wealth accumulation

Creating value through conservation for marine spatial property rights

Strategic responses and the effectiveness of treaties for international common property resources