blue fishing boat




It is intellectually dishonest to frame an argument in a misleading manner. In my previous essay, I explained how antitrust laws obstruct collective conservation efforts. However, I would be remiss if I did not expound upon the antitrust exemptions for specific collective conservation arrangements. Such examples include the Fishermen’s Collective Marketing Act and harvest collectives. There is certainly a formidable argument that antitrust laws could be made less restrictive to facilitate private conservation initiatives. It is still important to acknowledge what exemptions do exist for the sake of conservation.


The Precedence of Antitrust Exemptions


Antitrust exemptions for various collective arrangements run across many industries. Ranging from Major League Baseball [1], agricultural collectives, to even labor Unions (Adler, 2004, P.37) [2]. Per Adler (2004) the structural architecture of most antitrust exempts stems back to the Capper-Volstead Act.  This act originally provided small-scale farmers with more leverage against large distributors. Enabling them to engage in collective efforts that were mutually beneficial to collective members (Varney, 2010, P.2-3) [3]. The Capper-Volstead Act was oriented towards agricultural collectives but did influence legislation such as The Fishermen’s Collective Marketing Act. Which allowed members to :


“Specifically, the FCMA authorizes “persons engaged in the fishing industry” to “collectively catch, produce, prepare for market, process, handle and market… such products of said persons so engaged…”


The act does not allow associated firms to initiated prohibited boycotts or refusals to deal. Due to the specified nature of the above exempt activities (Adler, 2004, P.39) [4]. The market behaviors permitted under FCMA are to the benefit of collective members. Unfortunately, there aren’t any terms to enforce catch quotas (Adler, 2004, P.41) [5]. Presents a major problem pertaining to the ability of the FCMA to reduce the environmental impact of over fishing. The facts are once the prices rise the temptation to breach a cartel agreement increases over time.



Harvest Collectives:


Due to the lack of formal property rights and quota enforcement legally acknowledged harvest collectives prove to be effective alternatives. The Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative and North Pacific Pollock fishery being fine examples. Often legislation can be easily circumvented. For example, Magnus Act attempted to impose catch limits through a licensing system (Adler, 2004, P.42) [6]. A natural consequence of such measures is the creation of a “race to fish” scenario. Limited licenses, pushed producers to exhaust quotas within 14 days (Adler, 2004, P.42) [7]. Clearly not aligning the incentives of fishing companies with conservative harvesting practices.


On the other hand, the Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative has achieved greater success.  The cooperative operates by “… allocating portions of the catch among its members, creating informal property rights in the harvest..” (Adler, 2004, P.43) [8]. The allotments were easily determined due to the “coordination costs” being low enough to do so with little hassle (Adler, 2004, P.43) [9]. Per Adler, the implementation of the PWCC increased the recovery of saleable fish by approximately 20%.  Beyond that, it has reduced the number of operating vessels and increased overall fish volume and quality (Adler, 2004, P.43) [10]. The implementation of such collectives not only are more ecologically congenial but are more economically productive. Making it a winning solution and preserving the balance between free markets and environmentalism. Striking the balance that most assume to be unattainable.


Does the question now become how do collectives such as PWCC fair under the scrutiny of antitrust laws?  Better than you might think. The Department of Justice (DOJ) found the practices of PWCC to be lawful despite the broad nature of current antitrust laws. The participating companies agreed to “… continue processing, marketing, and selling their products…” in a competitive manner. It was deemed by the DOJ that such coordinated efforts would not substantially reduce supply nor inflate prices (Adler, 2004, P.43) [11].





Free-market Capitalism and conservation efforts do not need to be adversarial. The PWCC is proof. The interaction between private conservation cooperatives and antitrust laws can contemptuous. Depending on the agreed-upon parameters of the collective it may still be legal. While the ambiguous quiddity of antitrust statues can be an obstacle they are not necessarily a brick wall. Unfortunately, you are somewhat held hostage by another individual’s interpretation of vague laws.


Navigating antitrust laws much like another aspect of the law is far from cut-and-dry. It can be mildly tainted with subjectivity. My natural inclination is to abolish such statues. Such a hasty reaction ignores the potential impact on the consumer. There certainly should be a great deal of nuance when addressing the issue of antitrust laws alone. Never mind the extra layer of complexity by examining how these laws interact with conservation initiatives. While such statutes can be restrictive, depending on the circumstances they may not impede the privatization of conservation efforts.




10 thoughts on “The Antitrust Exemptions for Private Conservation Collectives

  1. What a fascinating post. These examples look like successful ways of solving the “tragedy of the commons” problem made famous in Hardin’s 1968 paper, so it would make sense to extend antitrust exemptions to these cases.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I found it to be a novel solution. Especially considering it veers towards using private means of resource preservation.

      Paper was influenced by Hardin’s TTCs and a 1998 paper written by Yandle for the Independent Review.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Agreed! Although Hardin’s mathematical analysis of the problem (overexploitation of a public resources; cf. road congestion) was correct, he overlooked culture — the ability of people to use language (gossip) and informal norms (rules) to solve the problem!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. You can’t underestimate informal rules. I would be careless enough to suggest that the Bill of rights are informal rules. Informal rules that someone had the good sense to codify in a body of formal law.

          Anytime we talk about rights, it tends to start at the level of informal natural rights. If you have a well functioning government all it does is protect these rights.

          Sorry went a little astray on this one.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Good points. I tend to see legal rights as “parchment barriers” — in James Madison’s immortal phrase — but at the same time, the codification of rights can also send a powerful signal to people about the importance of respecting autonomy and liberty …

          Liked by 1 person

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