Catch-Share System Could Save World's Fisheries From Collapse

photo: Corey Arnold

This week the European Commission announced that the EU's Common Fisheries Policy was going to be reviewed, with the expectation being that both the number of vessels and the time they would be allowed to be at sea would be reduced so that declining fish stocks could be better protected. Well, a new article in Science magazine, proposes a better method to ensure that fish stocks don't become depleted: A Catch-Share System. Here's how it would work:Fisherman Have Incentive to Ensure Fish Stock's Health

Catch share programs replace complex rules dictating how fishing will be practiced, with a method to hold fishermen directly accountable for meeting a vital conservation target: scientifically determined catch limits. Fishermen, individually or in cooperatives, are granted a percentage share of the total allowable catch. They can also be granted exclusive access to particular fishing zones. (This system is commonly referred to as territorial use rights for fishing.) As long as fishermen do not exceed their share, they have greater flexibility to fish when weather and market conditions are best. Their shares grow in value as the overall fishery improves, providing them a greater financial stake in sound resource management. (Environmental Defense Fund)

Only 1% Of World Fisheries Employ Catch-Share
This compares to the current open-access system used by 99% of the world's fisheries where, as report author Christopher Costello describes it, you have a free-for-all race to catch as many fish as possible. "But when you allocate share of the catch, then there is an incentive to protect the stock, which reduces collapse. We saw this across the globe." (Reuters)

Alaskan Halibut Hailed as Example
The report cites the example of the Alaskan halibut fishery as an example of how catch-share systems can revitalize a fishery. Prior to 1995, the season was repeatedly shrunk until in lasted just two to three days a year. In those days, fisherman tried to catch as many fish as possible, often overloading their boats to the point of endangering themselves and the catch. Now that a catch-share system is in place, the season has been expanded to eight months; and in the words of report co-author Steven Gaines, is "insanely profitable" because fisherman can better store and manage their catch, and fetch a higher price for it.

via EDF and Reuters
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