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Although randomly allocating quota among a pool of eligible participants may at first appear to be unusual, random mechanisms can be used to achieve a variety of ecological and social goals in an equitable manner. For instance, in order to maintain the viability and health of fish stocks, the time and place of harvest may be important. A means of limiting the concentration of fishing effort to particular places and instead spreading it across a fish stock is to denominate quota as a proportion of a TAC and by area of harvest, as is done in the Alaskan halibut fishery. If some areas of harvest are less desirable than others, area quotas may be allocated by lottery, ensuring that fishermen equitably share both the desirable and less desirable areas.
Lotteries could be combined with other allocation rules. For example, considerable concern was expressed that the initial allocation rules for Alaskan halibut and sablefish IFQs were so liberal in recognizing past participation that ensuing quota shares were often too small to fish profitably. An alternative approach would have been to use the eligibility criteria to qualify individuals to participate in the lottery and then randomly award "fishable" quota shares to a subset of those deemed eligible.
Lotteries may be used to promote equality and to address different social and ecological issues, but lotteries do not promote economic efficiency. Other mechanisms, such as transferability of quota, would have to be combined with lotteries to promote efficiency. Lotteries have been used to award limited licenses in developing fisheries in Canada, such as the Newfoundland snow crab fishery. Such cases show the capacity for an initially fair allocation to result in later perceptions of inequity, unless the licenses are transferable or subject to periodic redistribution through additional lotteries or auctions (McCay, 1999).
Procedural or Priority-Ranking Mechanisms. Procedural mechanisms typically involve the development of a set of well-defined allocation criteria and subsequent allocation of valued goods based on these criteria. For instance, priority systems that allocate organs for transplant, or that allocate scarce public resources such as housing, are most familiar (Young, 1994). Allocation of fishing opportunities by the regional councils through various management systems provide other examples of procedural allocation mechanisms. A decision is made to allocate access to resources based on a social criterion. In the Polynesian community of Tikopia (Firth, 1959), people were ranked against one another on the basis of birth order among siblings and within ancestral sibling sets. When a devastating typhoon hit Tikopia, this system of ranking was used to allocate responsibility to take inventory of resources, determine the critical number who could be supported with those resources, and determine that those ranking below this number would go into permanent exile in their canoes.
Given that a group of people is devising a set of criteria that will be used to allocate valued goods, fairness issues, in terms of appropriate representation and participation in the group, are immediately obvious. The interests and values of the individuals participating will strongly influence the set of criteria adopted.