Expert Commentary

Can catch shares prevent fisheries collapse?

2008 UC Santa Barbara and the University of Hawaii study on the effects of catch-share systems and their potential to reduce overfishing.

Overfishing is a problem that has become more acute as global populations have increased, technology has improved and the environment has degraded. Until recently most management efforts have focused on limiting fishing days or areas, yet fishing stocks have continued to decline precipitously.

Scientists from UC Santa Barbara and the University of Hawaii suggest a possible solution in “Can Catch Shares Prevent Fisheries Collapse?” In their 2008 study, published in Science, the authors looked at statistics from more than 10,000 fisheries between 1950 and 2003. They found that catch-share systems, which encourage fishermen to act cooperatively rather than competitively, can reduce and possibly even reverse fisheries collapse.

Key findings include:

  • As of 2003, fisheries using a catch-share system were collapsed about half as often as fisheries not using the system.
  • Assigning secure rights to fishermen leads to significantly improved catches as well as financial returns.
  • Catch-share systems not only slow the decline toward widespread collapse, but actually stop this decline.

The authors conclude the study by writing: “These findings suggest that as catch shares are increasingly implemented globally, fish stocks, and the profits from harvesting them, have the potential to recover substantially.”

Tags: oceans, science, sustainable fishing

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