Study: Privatization could avert fisheries' collapse
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A 2007 report by the Environmental Defense Fund found that the benefits of catch sharing go well beyond preventing fishery decline. In a study of US and Canadian catch-share fisheries, the EDF found that revenues per boat increased by 80 percent, as fishermen sought to maximize the value of their share by delivering fish according to market demands. Bycatch – species other than the ones fishermen were trying to catch – was reduced by 40 percent. And safety more than doubled, as fishermen were able to stay ashore during bad weather and did not have to rush to catch as many fish as possible as they do during a constricted fishing season.Skip to next paragraph
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A success story can also be found in the Alaska halibut fishery, which converted to a catch-share system in 1995. By that year, the stocks had become so depleted that the fishing season had dwindled to only a few days, during which time prices were low because the market was flooded. Today, the season lasts almost eight months, and a boat can remain in the water until it has caught its share. Fisherman can land bigger fish and sell them at higher prices. And according to the Economist, since the system was put in place, search-and-rescue missions have dropped by more than 70 percent and deaths by 15 percent.
"[T]here is unfairness in allocating the shares initially, because you are giving something to the biggest fishers and the others are not getting access and will not get access for ever."
"So I think it's one of the tools that can be introduced in specific fisheries, but you shouldn't look at it with the degree of absolutism and even fanaticism that has characterised the discussion in some countries."
Additionally, the EDF report found that, while full-time employment rose among fisheries operating under catch-share systems, the number of available crew positions at any given time decreased by half.
The study comes just as the European Union is examining its fisheries policy. As the Worldwatch Institute's Ben Block notes this week, many European fisheries are on the verge of collapse. Block's report quotes Chris Costello, the study's lead author, who says that catch-sharing systems could offer a solution, provided that they are tailored to meet the needs of local communities:
"Every fishery in the world could benefit from some form of incentive-based management system," said Costello, a resources economics professor at University of California in Santa Barbra. "The critical feature is to design those incentive-based schemes for the biology of the species, the culture of the communities, and the economies of the fisheries."