Scientists say giving fishermen guaranteed shares of the catch will
prevent further collapse of the world's fisheries and replenish fish
stocks. As VOA's Jessica Berman reports the researchers say the
strategy reverses a mindset that has brought the fishing industry to
the brink of disaster.
The world's fisheries are in serious trouble. Experts say one-fourth of them have collapsed as a result of
over-fishing. At the current rate, a study published in Science two
years ago predicted that the entire industry would go the same way by
the middle of the century.
To protect fisheries, countries and communities have established catch quotas where fishermen compete for stocks.
Costello, an economics professor at the University of California Santa
Barbara, says this results in a race to fish, where independent
fisherman buy bigger boats and larger nets, all in an effort to outdo
But Costello says a plan called catch shares
could turn the endangered fishing industry around. Under the plan, a
community or co-op would give each licensed fisherman a percentage of
the catch. "So you as a fisherman know exactly how many fish you are
allowed to harvest during that season. Nobody can take those fish away
from you. No matter how fast I go out and fish, you can fish as slowly
and efficiently as you want to in order to harvest that total catch
that you are allowed to. So, what you find is that the season length
extends tremendously," he said.
Costello says a fishing season
might be extended in some waters up to eight months compared to two or
three days when a fishing quota is met.
Experts say the benefit
of catch shares is that it guarantees each fisherman a percentage of
the catch and gives them a desire to want to protect fisheries. They
liken catch shares to shares in a company. As the fisheries prosper,
so do the profits for fishermen.
Costello and colleagues at the
University of California and the University of Hawaii studied data on
11,000 commercial fisheries around the world between 1950 and 2003.
a study published in Science, researchers found the collapse rate was
cut in half among 121 fisheries that were managed by catch share
systems compared to traditional commercial fisheries.
of this paper is not that catch shares are the panacea to the fisheries
crisis; but that systems where fisherman have a financial incentive to
care about the long run health of systems can prevent the crisis," said
John Lynham, an economics professor at the University of Hawaii.
environmental groups have been critical of catch share strategies
because they believe the plan privatizes a public resource.
scientists say the evidence shows less pressure on commercial fisheries
as a result of catch shares both saves and revives fisheries.
co-author Steve Gaines of the University of California says the results
are consistent around the world. "Our study shows that the average
response to catch shares was consistently positive regardless of the
area where they occur or the type of species they catch. Stewardship
promotes ecological recovery, which in turn increase profits. It is
truly a win-win situation," he said.
This week, the European
Union announced a full review and plans to overhaul its fishing
policies that it says depletes fish stocks and penalizes commercial
fisheries that play by the rules.