Published online November 16, 2012, in Ocean & Coastal Management
By Wesley S. Patrick & Lee R. Benaka
NOAA Fisheries, Office of Sustainable Fisheries
Fisheries operated under catch share management systems were more likely to stay within target catch limits and to stop overfishing than those operating under other management systems, according to a new study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) entitled “Estimating the Economic Impacts of Bycatch in US Commercial Fisheries” which was published online last month in Ocean & Coastal Management.
The study analyzed the impact of “management uncertainty” upon fishery performance in 17 U.S. fisheries covering 12 different species. It compares fisheries under catch share management systems with those operating under other types of fishery management in which landings are managed “in-season” or “post-season.” This study is one of the first to look at the impact of “management uncertainty” upon a fishery’s performance. “Management uncertainty” refers to the inability of fishery managers to accurately predict how the management techniques they employ will affect their ability to achieve targets such as catch limits.
The study found that a fishery’s ability to stay within targeted catch limits varied considerably, but those under catch shares exceeded catch limits the least. Catch share fisheries exceeded catch limits just 2% of the time, compared to 37% of the time for those managed in-season or post-season. Knowing that catch share-run fisheries are unlikely to exceed catch limits reduces uncertainty and allows managers to set catch limits closer to “true” targets, allowing fishermen to catch more fish while still protecting fish populations for the future.
Bubba Cochrane. Photo by Mark Thein of GulfWild.
This is a re-post of a National Geographic Blog posted by Miguel Jorge of National Geographic's Ocean Initiative on November 20, 2012
Bubba Cochrane always knew he wanted to be a fisherman. So, despite concerns from his family, he began his career as a deck-hand and eventually saved enough to buy a permit and boat of his own. He’s 43 years old now and owns a commercial fishing business out of Galveston, Texas. Business is good – but he can easily remember what fishing used to be like.
“When I got started, fishing was a race: when the season opened we fished every day until we were notified that the quota was caught. That meant lots of fishing all at once, a glut of fish in the market, and bad prices when we got back to the docks,” said Bubba, reminiscing about his early days in the fishery.
Through the mid-2000s, the red snapper fishery was on the brink of collapse. Even with so few fish in the population and a short season, the fishing derbies meant that the price at the dock stayed low, hurting the profits of commercial fishermen. Fishery managers tried to address the price problem by breaking up the season into the first 15, then 10 days of each month. Fishermen would fish for 10 days, and then wait until the next month to go out again.
These sporadic openings were not the solution fishermen like Bubba wanted. “It’s hard to run your business in just the first 15 days of a month; a lot can get in the way. I tell people to imagine a gas station only being able to sell gas for the first ten days of each month or a contractor only being able to build houses in that short window.” Read More
Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper
NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service recently released the Gulf of Mexico 2010 Red Snapper Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Annual Report, and it provides a wealth of data and information collected during the fourth year of the IFQ program. The report comes as the 5-year review of the IFQ is underway, and offers us a chance to use the latest data to evaluate the success of the program.
By all counts, the IFQ has been a success. Back in 2006 when the Gulf Council was considering various management options in the red snapper fishery, fishermen had a short season each year, and had to go out even in dangerous conditions. The markets were flooded with fish for a short period of the year (and fishermen got low prices for their fish), and since the fishermen couldn't decide when, where, or how to fish, they had excessive bycatch of red snapper and everything else. And to top it all off, they ended up going over quota anyway.
Then in 2007, the IFQ brought in a new way of doing things. After getting approved overwhelmingly by local fishermen in not one but two referendums, the IFQ brought flexibility and stability to the fishing industry. Fishing days increased from an average of 77 days before catch shares to 365 days a year. Catch shares improved the stability of fishing employment; they allowed vessel owners the opportunity to provide full time jobs to qualified captains and deckhands, without the variability that results from short seasons. In contrast, recreational fishermen only had 53 days to fish for red snapper (not including lost days due to the oil spill) under traditional management in 2010, and only 48 days in 2011. Read More