A national panel on “the Community Dimensions of Fisheries Catch Share Programs” released its recommendations today. The Panel, convened by Ecotrust, found that options for improving communities and fisheries explode under catch shares, but they don’t happen on their own and more work and energy are needed to fully exploit the benefits of catch shares.
Overall, the panel’s findings are good news for communities that have suffered under traditional fisheries management. Its findings highlight how well-designed catch shares benefit our fishing communities by enhancing economic development. Under catch shares, there is a menu of options that were never before available to fishing communities.
However, like our brains, we are only using a small percentage of catch shares’ potential. Fishermen and other stakeholders can and should learn from past experiences to better implement catch shares. There are myriad ways to design catch shares to maximize benefits for communities. Where these approaches are being used, such as the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust and a community fishing association in Central California, communities are benefiting. However, many more communities can benefit from these innovative approaches and in some cases, not all community-focused options have been used in the design of catch share programs.
Fishing communities, fishermen and other stakeholders have opportunities under catch shares that were never available under previous management. We encourage stakeholders to envision their future and design catch shares to achieve their specific goals. There are myriad options, including many of the recommendations highlighted in the Panel report and the Catch Share Design Manual.