Professor Herrera’s educational path is mirrored in his research program, which primarily resides at the interface between natural biological systems and the human communities that utilize them; much of his work involves active communication and collaboration with natural scientists as well as other economists. Commercial fisheries, with complex and diverse biological dynamics, imperfectly specified property rights, incomplete and asymmetric information, and a wide range of institutional arrangements present a rich and technically challenging set of research questions. Fisheries also have a long and culturally important history in Maine and the larger region, making Bowdoin an ideal vantage point from which to study these issues. Professor Herrera approaches this research area from a variety of perspectives, including theoretical “bioeconomic” modeling, design of community-based fisheries management systems, and estimation in dollar terms of the economic impacts of specific policy initiatives.
Professor Herrera’s work has examined the management of multispecies fisheries, where various stocks are harvested at the same time using a nonselective technology; the impact of spatial structure – how both fish and fishermen move in space – on optimal harvest; and the impacts of imperfect information and strategic interactions between harvesters and regulators on the scale and type of regulation. Professor Herrera and his colleagues developed models of spatially structured resources that illuminate the potential role of closed areas (marine reserves) in economically optimal management, and the fact that spatially refined regulations can have benefits in terms of employment and political acceptance of regulations. With collaborators from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, U. of Maine, and USM, Professor Herrera was also involved in a large-scale project to study biological and economic connections between lobster, herring, and groundfish resources in the Gulf of Maine.
Professor Herrera was involved in a project in Miches, a municipality in the Dominican Republic, helping to design and implement a sustainable system of local governance of small-scale fisheries in this community, and to better understand what makes such governance systems succeed. This involves an understanding of the various biological resources themselves, of the social, political, and economic connections between the communities, and of technical interactions (or externalities) between them.
Professor Herrera is currently engaged in a comparative investigation of the use of Maine’s rivers (primarily the Androscoggin and the Kennebec) and the development of a set of surveys and models that can be used to estimate the potential benefits and costs of river restoration policies (e.g., dam removals, improvements in fish passage, or habitat enhancements). This work, in which Professor Herrera collaborates with natural and social scientists at Bowdoin, Bates, and the University of Southern Maine, is part of a larger “Sustainability Solutions Initiative,” funded by the National Science Foundation and centered at the University of Maine at Orono. This project explicitly emphasizes “knowledge-to-action:” the way in which stakeholders in the socioecological system influence, and are in turn affected by, the research process.
Professor Herrera’s research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Marine Resource Economics, Natural Resource Modeling, the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science, and Marine Policy. In addition to internal research support provided by Bowdoin, Professor Herrera has received external funding from the National Science Foundation (Coupled Natural and Human Systems; EPSCoR; Mathematical Social & Behavioral Sciences), NOAA-Seagrant, and USAID. Professor Herrera currently is an Adjunct Scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he has held positions as Research Fellow during two sabbaticals. He maintains active collaborations with members of the WHOI Biology department as well as the Marine Policy Center.