Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

The randomized response technique as a tool for estimating non-compliance rates in fisheries: a case study of illegal red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) fishing in Northern California

  • SARA G. BLANK (a1) and MICHAEL C. GAVIN (a2)

Illegal fishing has detrimental environmental and social impacts, but these effects are difficult to mitigate without reliable estimates of fisher non-compliance. Methods used by fisheries managers to estimate illegal fishing often require indirect estimation of poaching using biological, economic or sociological indicators. This study presents a unique application of the randomized response technique (RRT) for direct estimation of non-compliance in fisheries to the Northern California recreational red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) fishery. An anonymous paper-based compliance and sociodemographic survey of recreational fishers in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties estimated 29% non-compliance with the daily take limit, 23% with the minimum size limit, 19% with licensing laws and 15% with the annual take limit. RRT results also indicated how different sociodemographic characteristics related to non-compliance. Visitors had higher non-compliance rates than local fishers for all regulations except daily take limits, which an estimated 72% of locals violated versus 18% of visitors. High fisher awareness of regulations, fisher age, income and fishing experience did not appear to influence illegal take. RRT is a powerful tool which can aid conservation managers in prioritizing action.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence: Sara G. Blank Tel: +1 831 998 3831 e-mail:
Hide All
Berrens R.P., Bohara A.K. & Kerkvliet J. (1997) A randomized response approach to dichotomous choice contingent valuation. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 79 (1): 252266.
Buchman T.A. & Tracy J.A. (1982) Obtaining responses to sensitive questions: conventional questionnaire versus randomized response technique. Journal of Accounting Research 20 (1): 263271.
Burton M. (1999) An assessment of alternative methods of estimating the effect of the ivory trade ban on poaching effort. Ecological Economics 30: 93–106.
CDFG (2005) Abalone recovery and management plan (ARMP). Marine Region, California Department of Fish and Game, California Fish and Game Commission, USA.
CDFG (2007) California abalone information [www document]. URL
Chaloupka M.Y. (1985) Application of the randomized response technique to marine park management: an assessment of permit compliance. Environmental Management 9 (5): 393398.
Davies J.C. (1996) Comparing Environmental Risks: Tools for Setting Government Priorities. Washington, DC, USA: Resources for the Future: 176 pp.
Dowling T.A. & Shachtman R.H. (1975) Relative efficiency of randomized response models. Journal of the American Statistical Association 70 (349): 8487.
Faasen H. & Watts S. (2007) Local community reaction to the `no-take’ policy on fishing in the Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa. Ecological Economics 64 (1): 3646.
Fox J.A. & Tracy P.E. (1986) Randomized Response: A Method for Sensitive Surveys. Beverly Hills, CA, USA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Furlong W.J. (1991) The deterrent effect of regulatory enforcement in the fishery. Land Economics 67 (1): 116129.
Goodstadt M.S. & Gruson V. (1975) The randomised response technique: a test on drug use. Journal of the American Statistical Association 70: 814818.
Harris M. (1998) Lament for an Ocean: The Collapse of the Atlantic Cod Fishery. Toronto, Canada: McLelland and Stuart.
Hatcher A., Jaffry S., Thebaud O. & Bennett E. (2000) Normative and social influences affecting compliance with fishery regulations. Land Economics 76 (3): 448461.
Hauck M. & Sweijd N.A. (1999) A case study of abalone poaching in South Africa and its impact on fisheries management. ICES Journal of Marine Science 56 (6): 10241032.
Hockings M., Stolton S. & Dudley N. (2000) Evaluating Effectiveness: a Framework for Assessing the Management of Protected Areas. Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series 6. Cambridge, UK: World Conservation Union.
Hønneland G. (1999) A model of compliance in fisheries: theoretical foundations and practical application. Ocean and Coastal Management 42: 699716.
Hughey K.F.D., Cullen R. & Moran E. (2003) Integrating economics into priority setting and evaluation in conservation management. Conservation Biology 17: 93105.
I-Cheng C., Chow L.P. & Rider R.V. (1972) The randomized response technique as used in the Taiwan outcome of pregnancy study. Studies in Family Planning 3 (11): 265269.
Kalvass P.E. (2006) 2005 economic summary statistics from telephone survey conducted by CSU Chico. Fort Bragg, CA, USA: California Department of Fish and Game, CA, USA.
Kalvass P.E. (2007) 2006 red abalone catch and effort statistics. Unpublished report, California Department of Fish and Game, Fort Bragg, CA, USA.
Kalvass P.E. & Geibel J.J. (2006) California recreational abalone fishery catch and effort estimates for 2002 from a combined report card and telephone survey. California Fish and Game 92 (4): 157171.
Karpov K.A., Haaker P.L., Taniguchi I.K. & Rogers-Bennett L. (2000) Serial depletion and the collapse of the California abalone (Haliotis spp.) fishery. Fisheries Aquatic Science 130: 1124.
Kashiwada J.V. & Taniguchi I.K. (2007) Application of recent red abalone Haliotis rufescnes surveys to management decisions outlined in the California Abalone Recovery and Management Plan. Journal of Shellfish Research 26 (3): 713–717.
Lensvelt-Mulders G.J.L.M., Hox J.J., van der Heijden P.G.M & Maas C.J.M. (2005) Meta-analysis of randomized response research: 35 years of validation. Sociological Methods Research 33: 319348.
Mak K.K.W., Yanase H. & Renneberg R. (2005) Cyanide fishing and cyanide detection in coral reef fish using chemical tests and biosensors. Biosensors and Bioelectronics 20 (12): 25812593.
McCluskey S.M. & Lewison R.L. (2008) Quantifying fishing effort: a synthesis of current methods and their applications. Fish and Fisheries 9: 188200.
Mittermeier R.A., Myers N., Thomsen J.B., da Fonseca G.A.B. & Olivier S. (1998) Biodiversity hotspots and major tropical wilderness areas: approaches to setting conservation priorities. Conservation Biology 12 (3): 516520.
New Zealand Ministry of Fisheries (2006) The State of Our Fisheries Annual Summary 2006 [www document]. URL
Patterson K.R., Castello M., Santos M. & Barcia M. (1990) Validation and re-computation of catch and effort data in the near-shore fleet of Ecuador for the period 1981–1989. Report, INP, Guayaquil, Ecuador: 47 pp.
Pitcher T.J., Watson R., Forrest R., Valtysson H. & Guenette S. (2002) Estimating illegal and unreported catches from marine ecosystems: a basis for change. Fish and Fisheries 3 (4): 317339.
Riske S. (2003) Abalone enforcement report 2002/03. Recreational Abalone Advisory Committee of the California Department of Fish and Game, Fort Bragg, CA, USA: 7 pp.
Riske S. (2006) Abalone enforcement report 2006. Recreational Abalone Advisory Committee of the California Department of Fish and Game, Fort Bragg, CA, USA: 7 pp.
Schill D.J. & Kline P.A. (1995) Use of random response to estimate angler non-compliance with fishing regulations. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 15 (4): 721731.
Solomon J.N., Jacobson S.K., Wald K.D. & Gavin M.C. (2007) Estimating illegal resource use at a Ugandan park with the randomized response technique. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 12 (2): 7588.
Spencer P.D & Collie J.S. (1997) Patterns of population variability in marine fish stocks. Fisheries Oceanography 6 (3): 188204.
Stern M.J. (2008) Coercion, voluntary compliance, and protest: the role of trust and legitimacy in combating local protest to protected areas. Environmental Conservation 35 (3): 200210.
Sumaila U.R., Alder J. & Keith H. (2006) Global scope and economics of illegal fishing. Marine Policy 30 (6): 696703.
Sutinen J.G. & Kuperan K. (1999) A socio-economic theory of regulatory compliance. International Journal of Social Economics 26 (1–3): 174.
Tarr R.J.Q. (2000) The South African abalone (Haliotis midae) fishery; a decade of challenge and change. Fisheries Aquatic Science 130: 3240.
Turpie J.K., Heydenrych B.J. & Lamberth S.J. (2003) Economic value of terrestrial and marine biodiversity in the Cape Floristic Region: implications for defining effective and socially optimal conservation strategies. Biological Conservation 112 (1–2): 233251.
Wahl T. (1995) Are radar satellites cost-effective for maritime surveillance? Paper No. IAA-95-IAA.1.3.04, Proceedings of the 46th International Astronautical Congress, 2–6 October 1995, Oslo, Norway. International Astronautical Federation (IAF), Paris, France.
Warner S.L. (1965) Randomized response: a survey technique for eliminating evasive answer bias. Journal of the American Statistical Association 60 (309): 6369.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Environmental Conservation
  • ISSN: 0376-8929
  • EISSN: 1469-4387
  • URL: /core/journals/environmental-conservation
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 54 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 244 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.