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The Theory of Catch Shares (cont.)

August 1, 2012

Catch shares are increasingly promoted as an effective way to manage fisheries and better align private incentives with conservation. I’ve blogged a bit on this myself.

But we too rarely talk about the theory driving the trend in catch shares and which hypotheses need further testing.  To support that discussion, I thought it would be nice to list the various hypotheses surrounding catch shares as found by MRAG Americas through two technical workshops.  This I hope will complement a past blog of an excellent piece by EDF and Redstone Strategy Group earlier this year.

  • Catch shares will improve stock status to levels that maximize economic gains: under exploited species may experience higher fishing rates and over exploited species may experience lower fishing rates.   Inter annual variability in F [mortality] will be reduced.
  • Catch shares combined with high observer coverage and discards that count against the quota will result in discard reductions.  Catch shares combined with discards that do not count against the quota will lead to highgrading.
  • Catch shares will lead rights-holders to better match their total catches (including discards) with their catch quotas.
  • Catch shares will incentivize stakeholders to be better stewards of their resources.
  • Catch shares will lead to much fewer instances of fleet-wide quota overages.
  • Catch shares will lead fishermen to improve their ability to avoid constraining species and target more abundant species.
  • Catch shares will lead to fishing effort being spread out over a longer period of time.
  • Catch shares will lead fishermen to focus more on maximizing quality than quantity.
  • Catch shares will lead to data (landings) being available more immediately and used to inform in season management.
  • Catch shares will lead to fishing operators investing in cooperative research.
  • Catch shares will cause a shift in governance activities from federal managers to individuals, sectors, or co-ops.
  • Catch shares will lead to greater economic efficiency in fishing operations.
  • Catch shares combined with extreme consolidation allowance will lead to the failure of small businesses.
  • Catch shares will lead to negative overall impacts for community stability.

These hypotheses were liberally adapted from MRAG’s Catch Share Evaluation Methodology found here.  The document is nice as it provides indicators that might be used to evaluate these hypotheses.  The last hypothesis above is primarily what is put forward by opponents of catch shares, such as the Food and Water Watch (for example, as argued here).

In my own view, the ecological and economic hypotheses are increasingly well-supported by existing catch share programs. As for the governance and social impacts, it’s still an open question.  Do we get more collaborative research?  Is there better data sharing? Is governance further decentralized? And how severe are the employment impacts in overcapitalized fisheries?

The last question is something I think about quite a lot.  There’s no question that catch share programs can and do create unemployment.  But, so do overfished stocks and overcapitalized fisheries when brought under science-based, top-down management.  It’s a hard fact that many fleets are overcapitalized and people will need to be moved other activities. The U.S. is no exception.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Suzanne Iudicello permalink
    August 21, 2012 10:18 am

    We read with interest this piece and the blog post on the Sea Monster. MRAG will soon launch a project website for the Measuring the Effects of Catch Shares Project and invite you to visit and link to it. We also will be doing briefings in the New England, Pacific Northwest and D.C. areas over the next couple months, and you are welcome to attend one. Thanks for your clear and thoughtful reporting and writing. —Suzanne Iudicello, MRAG’s Measuring the Effects of Catch Shares Project

    • August 22, 2012 2:27 pm

      Thanks, Suzanne. I’ll keep an eye out for that project website. And where can I get information on the briefings? I’d be very interested in attending.

      • Suzanne Iudicello permalink
        August 22, 2012 2:31 pm

        As soon as the dates and places are set, we’ll send you the info. Look forward to meeting you.

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