Congress is about to embark on a review of what has worked and what hasn’t in a law widely regarded as having halted overfishing in many American fisheries. Though we have made progress here in the United States, overfishing is wreaking havoc on the world’s oceans and the mismanagement of our fisheries is the chief cause. Recent peer reviewed science estimates that 64% of global fisheries are depleted below the levels required to sustain production.
Overfishing can lead to the loss of important species that can upend the balance of critical ocean food webs leading to the further degradation of our ocean. To save the ocean, we must end overfishing.
One of EDF’s missions is to rebuild global fisheries with the best possible solutions that serve both fishermen and fish so that future generations can enjoy sustainable seafood, fishermen can continue to fish profitably, and our seas are healthy and abundant. Peer reviewed and published scientific evidence and our decades of experience have shown that catch shares are one of the best solutions for rebuilding depleted fisheries both in the United States and globally.
In the United States, catch shares have brought stability and sustainability to fisheries once in turmoil from overfishing. From the Gulf of Maine, to the Gulf of Mexico all the way to the Bering Sea, fishermen have more stable and flexible businesses and fisheries are recovering from years of overfishing. If you add our neighbors to the north, Canada, there are 15 catch shares that have shown significant improvements in the stability of jobs, revenues and increased safety. All over the world fishermen are learning form the work that American fishermen and fishery managers have done to save our nation’s fisheries.
Catch shares have not been a silver bullet in this effort. In some cases, setting catch limits and aggressive enforcement can be enough to make sure a fishery is sustainable, but in many cases catch limits alone produce derby fishing, where fishermen race to fish in short, unsafe seasons, make very little money, and often lose their businesses – all while the health of the fishery continues to fail.
Science-based catch limits are the bedrock of any catch share program. Catch shares give fishermen an economic incentive to stay within those limits, practically guaranteeing an end to overfishing. The Gulf of Mexico commercial red snapper fishery has been managed under a catch share for more than five years. Before the catch share, fishermen were often exceeding their catch limit and racing in derby seasons that continued to get shorter and shorter. These derbies were unsafe, sometimes unprofitable and were doing nothing to help rebuild the fishery. Read More