The science of sustainable seafood, explained

New Paper: Catch Shares Slow the Race to Fish

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?

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One Response

  1. Nice, but be carefull. It’s all in the design and the safeguard parameters applied. Your results aligns with a number of other studies. The point is that a large amount of mistrust persist vis á vis ITQ’s. Not because of effects on the resource but on allocation of rights. Given that most nations give priority to small scale fishing it is necessary to study how safeguards can ensure the best of both allocation and resource management. Most of all it’s really about expressing a policy and translating it into the design and implementing parameters. I listened to the wonders of ITQs from economists since 1911 (Jens Warming). And I believe in the system. But focus must now be at societys need for “fair” distribution and what you term as “careful policy design”
    DK has a highly transferable market based system. Yet we just reassigned quota rights to small scale on administrative order level without expropriation issues.

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