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Journal of Economic Perspectives: Vol. 20 No. 2 (Spring 2006)

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Markets: The Fulton Fish Market

Article Citation

Graddy, Kathryn. 2006. "Markets: The Fulton Fish Market." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(2): 207-220.

DOI: 10.1257/jep.20.2.207

Abstract

The Fulton Fish Market was a colorful part of the New York City landscape that operated on Fulton Street in Manhattan for over 150 years. In 2005 the market moved from the South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan to Hunts Point in the South Bronx. The Fulton Fish Market--now called The New Fulton Fish Market--is one of the world's largest fish markets, second in size only to Tsukiji, the famous fish market in Tokyo. To economists, it may seem that a large centralized market with well-informed buyers and sellers should also be a very competitive market. But fish is a highly differentiated product. Buyers often wish to examine fish themselves, or have their agents do so. The centralized market performs an important function in matching fish to buyers. The high level of product differentiation and the institutional structure in the Fulton fish market can lead to patterns of behavior that suggest imperfect competition and a segmented market. At times in the past, the repeated nature of price setting and extensive knowledge of the sellers may have created the basis for tacit collusion and allowed the dealers to gather economic rents by exploiting the different elasticities and buying patterns. Additional economic rents resulted from subsidies. Before reforms in 1995, lax regulation of the market provided fertile ground for organized crime.

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Graddy, Kathryn

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