After doing some reading about catch shares on NOAA Fisheries- Office of Sustainable Fisheries website, the concept of what a "catch share" is seems to make much more sense. It is very similar to a stock market. In the stock market, people own shares in a company that entitle them to a certain percentage of the company's profits. According to NOAA, "catch shares" are a type of management system that divides percentages of the total allowable catch to "individuals, cooperatives, communities, or other entities." Or, a catch share might mean being assigned a designated fishing area. Those who have catch shares are "directly accountable to stop fishing when its specific share allocation is reached." This sort of system seems to act as a combination of the command-and-control solution and the incentive-based solution. Fishermen are given a set quota to reach and once their quota of a certain species is reached, they must stop fishing. In an article entitled "Catch Shares: Sustainability for Fish and Fishermen," a trawl fishermen discusses the opportunity to switch the gear he uses to catch the fish. This would be the command-and-control part of the catch share management system. In that same article, the fishermen favors the catch share program because he notes that "clean fishing will be rewarded." This means that there is some sort of incentive for fishermen to be a part of the catch share management program. The NFWF is providing money towards this type of research because they are hoping that new ideas for the implementation of catch shares will develop. According to the article, “Studies show that when catch shares are added to the fisheries management mix, environmental stewardship and economic performance increases substantially.”
The idea is great, I believe it follows with the Coarse theorem, essentially giving the fishers property rights to a quota of fish. However, the one vital ingredient for these programs to work is compliance, whether it be voluntary or through effective enforcement. In the case of reef fisheries in developing countries with unmonitored landing sites and stiff competition, some might be tempted to "cash in their investment now" and get all the fish they can (aka current situation). I read recently (have to find the reference) that perceptions of future scarcity sometimes increases unsustainable habitats with a "take what you can now before its all gone" psychology. For the share system to work in such environments it has to be coupled with other developmental programs that improve both education and livelihood security of the resource users. David Gill
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