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New Study Supports Conservation Benefits of Catch Shares

RodFRod Fujita, Ph.D
Director, Ocean Innovations
Environmental Defense Fund

A new study released today (Essington, 2009) supports the results of other studies showing the benefits of catch share management in fisheries (Costello et al., 2008; Heal and Schlenker 2008).

The paper looks for a response in biomass, exploitation rate, discards, effort, compliance with catch targets and landings in 15 North American catch share fisheries.

The paper did not find that these catch share fisheries, on average, reduced overall landings or that they increased biomass.  That seems to be because most of these fisheries were not overfished–so the overall catch would not be expected to go down, and biomass would not be expected to increase, because these were not management goals.  To test the hypothesis that catch shares can rebuild depleted populations, it will be important to analyze depleted fisheries, over rebuilding time frames.  In this study, only one of the 8 fisheries that had explicit overfishing targets was substantially overfished.

The study did show that catch share fisheries moved landings, exploitation rates, and biomass levels closer to their targets, whether they were above or below the targets.  Since some of the fisheries were above and some were below, these changes averaged out, resulting in small net changes.  The exception was discard rate, which appears to have dropped by about 30% in the small number of fisheries examined. Read More »

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