Catch sharing reduces the competitive race to fish and extends fishing seasons, a study published online this week in Nature suggests. The findings could help to inform the current debate over the expansion of market-based regulation, such as catch shares, in fisheries.
Around the globe, fishermen compete with each other to catch fish. This reduces the length of fishing seasons, threatens fish stocks and leads to ecological damage and economic waste. Catch shares, where fishermen, fishing vessels or cooperatives are allocated a portion of the total allowable catch, are thought to slow this race to fish, but the evidence so far has been anecdotal and limited to individual fisheries. Martin Smith and colleagues compared 39 US fisheries treated with catch shares and individually matched controls, and find that the positive effects of catch shares are found broadly across the US.
Catch shares are a contentious issue in global fisheries policy, fostering concerns over fairness, loss of income and industry consolidation. As governments around the world debate the pros and cons of expanding catch share management in fisheries, the study provides a source of timely, relevant information.