Proceedings of the Third World Fisheries Congress: Feeding the World with Fish in the Next Millenium—The Balance between Production and Environment

Monitoring the Economic Status of a Mixed-Species Trawl Fleet: OTTER Economic Simulator

Philippe D. Lallemand, John M. Gates


The first OTTER simulator was developed by J. M. Gates, S. R. Crutchfield, and P. Kurkul (unpublished paper, 1984). It was based on older, mainframe-based simulation programs developed at Texas A&M University and at the National Marine Fishery Service (NMFS), Northeast Regional Center (NERO), in Gloucester, Massachusetts (Crutchfield 1986). (The mainframe simulator developed by NMFS was programmed in FORTRAN.) OTTER version 1 performed three basic sets of calculations: estimating the monthly and annual gross stock (i.e., total revenue) for a given type of vessel using several vessel characteristics; estimating annual costs based on vessel operating patterns and characteristics; and dividing costs and revenues under the chosen lay system among owner, captain, and crew, yielding estimates of economic surplus (revenues less operating and opportunity costs) for crew and captain (Crutchfield 1986).

When OTTER was first designed around 1982, the industry was experiencing a profound sense of dissatisfaction with fisheries management in general and fisheries economics in particular. No shortage of models told fishers and managers what they “ought to do.” However, very few models were available to monitor the economic status of the fleet or to describe different impacts on various sectors of fleets. A program was initiated by John M. Gates of the University of Rhode Island and Joseph Mueller and Patricia Kurkul of NMFS, NERO. This cooperative effort led to the collection of vessel economics data, an “in house” mainframe simulator at NERO, and eventually a PC-based simulator that solved issues of access and confidentiality with the in-house version.

OTTER version 2 was developed by Lallemand and Gates (1992–1998). Like its predecessor, OTTER version 2 calculates revenues, costs, and net incomes to boat, captain, crew, and total for New England otter trawler vessels by size, port, gear type, skill, month, and year. Six ports were added to the choice of eight ports in the previous version. Choices on OTTER fishing gear configurations were also added. In addition, OTTER version 2 has the capability to display several bar graphs on revenues, costs, and surpluses.

OTTER version 3 was developed by Lallemand in 1999 thanks to the improvement and integration of powerful spreadsheet programs such as Microsoft Excel 97. Indeed, most modern spreadsheet programs not only have the ability to display a range of graphics and charts but also can accommodate “workbooks” composed of programming modules such as macro commands and customized menus. The programming power of new spreadsheet software, ActiveX controls, and OLE technology allow program developers to take shortcuts. They no longer need to write redundant codes for commands that execute common tasks or to render predefined designs. Most familiar tasks and designs have been preprogrammed and are easily accessible to the programmer.