A new paper in Nature quantified the ability of catch shares to reduce the race to fish in 39 US fisheries. The authors compared the length of fishing seasons in comparable fisheries with and without catch shares, and tested the hypothesis that fisheries with catch shares had a longer fishing season than those without catch shares. Catch shares are hypothesized to halt the race to fish, but to date there had been no comprehensive examination of this assumption. “To our knowledge, [this paper was] the first meta- analysis of economic outcomes from any type of market-based environmental regulation.” This paper comes at a time when the US Congress is considering whether to expand or decrease the use of catch shares in federal fishery legislation.
The method was a treatment-control empirical strategy, which aimed at avoiding issues with before-after comparisons. To find enough treatment-control matches, the authors looked at fisheries in the same area for the same species under different management schemes (for example, New England scallops under a catch share regime and New England scallops not under catch shares), but also compared fisheries in Canada that had different management regimes than US counterparts (for example, Alaskan and Canadian Halibut). The Gini coefficient was used to provide a, “quantitative measure or [fishing] season compression.”
“Our results strongly support the widely-held view that catch shares attenuate the race to fish.”
“Catch shares are found to lengthen the season and thus ameliorate the tragedy of the commons. By slowing fishing pressure, catch shares create new incentives to reduce costs, improve product quality, time the catch to market demand, and avoid safety risks. Slowing down may also convey ecological benefits.”
The authors concluded by mentioning that catch shares do have critics, but that, “many concerns can be addressed through careful policy design.”
CFoodUW reported on both sides of the catch share debate over the last year. Do these new findings on catch shares and their ability to attenuate the race to fish, change this conversation?