West Coast Bottom Fisheries Were in Trouble, But Now Booming
The Seattle Times front page article “Eat up! These bottom fish make a dramatic recovery on West Coast” (Sept. 2, 2014) offers yet another catch shares policy success story. Bottom fisheries were in trouble along the west coast because:
Most were managed using massive quota systems that encouraged a race among fishermen to catch everything they could, regardless of markets. Fishermen often scooped up species they weren’t targeting and ended up tossing away many fish that weren’t salable.
But then regulators set aside some areas and switched to catch shares system that give fishermen a property right in their traditional share of the total catch each year. The federal fisheries management council still estimates the annual sustainable yield.
But in the mid- to late 2000s, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, which oversees West Coast commercial fishing, began closing many ecologically sensitive areas to fishing. The council also divvied up quotas and redistributed them to individual fishermen as catch shares, which made it easier for fishermen to take their time and be more selective in the species they targeted. That reduced waste.
That step represented fundamental change, Lockhart said.It allows fishermen to fish at times and in places where they know they can catch the right fish. It also allows them to work with the processors to develop markets so they can get the best possible prices.
Key to the success of catch shares follows from the incentives it creates for fishermen. Someone with a catch share of, say, 2% of the total catch of a particular species of bottom fish, has a strong incentive to see the total fishery recover and expand. If there are 50% more fish the following year, each catch share would rise by up to 50%. Instead of a race to pull in as many fish as possible during limited fishing days, catch shares owners cooperate to both catch their share and work to conserve and expand the overall fishery.
I have a number of earlier posts on catch shares (both for and against).
Perhaps the most compelling is the Environmental Defense Fund map showing the success of catch shares systems around the world. This PERC post discusses and links to EDF. And here is direct link to EDF map shown below:
Also highly recommended is an article in the Summer 2014 PERC Reports on “The Ocean’s Off-shore Entrepreneurs” The article reports innovative ocean development programs directed by eight entrepreneurs who have attended past PERC programs. Here is one of the projects profiled:
Daylin Muñoz-Nuñez, a marine scientist who worked for the Cuban Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, applied her enviropreneurial skill set to coordinate solutions for key fisheries in Mexico, Belize, and her home country of Cuba. Further offshore, she advanced the tri-national collaborative management of shark fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, using innovative market-based tools that were modeled after catch shares. (See more)
Here is link to pdf download of Summer 2014 PERC Reports. Cover below.