Restoring fisheries and saving sea life


Overfishing is a serious problem: The majority of global stocks are fished hard, and many are crashing. But there is reason for hope. EDF offers a different approach for recovery that works — it’s called catch shares.

  • Slide 1Slide 1: Learn how catch shares work in 7 steps >
  • Slide 2Slide 2: Under catch shares, scientists determine the health of a fishery and how many fish can be caught sustainably
  • Slide 3Slide 3: Fishery managers set an overall limit of fish the fishery can catch that will leave enough in the water to sustain a healthy population.
  • Slide 4Slide 4: The scientifically determined catch limit (or Total Allowable Catch) is then divvied up among fishermen.
  • Slide 5Slide 5: Each is allotted a percentage of the total. The portion a fisherman can catch is known as a share or quota.
  • Slide 6Slide 6: Captains can fish whenever they choose--in good weather, when fish prices are high--to catch their share.
  • Slide 7Slide 7: Because they're fishing more carefully, fishermen catch fewer undesirable discard fish, known as bycatch.
  • Slide 8Slide 8: As the fishery recovers, the overall catch limit increases, as does the amount of fish each fisherman can catch.

How we know catch shares restore fisheries

A recent study1 of fisheries in Canada and the U.S. showed that under catch shares:

  • 19%The amount of fish allowed to be caught increased 19% over 10 years of catch shares.
  • 66% Wasted fish (bycatch) decreased 66% over 10 years, meaning more fish in the ocean and healthier populations.
  • 68%Fleet-wide revenues increased 68% after 10 years and fisherman safety improved three-fold.
  • 100%Fishermen complied nearly 100% with catch limits—exceeding limits only five times in 86 seasons.


1. Grimm, et al. Assessing catch share effects; evidence from U.S. federal and associated British Columbian fisheries. Marine Policy, May 2012

Spreading the word on catch shares

Today, about 65% of all fish caught in U.S. federal waters are under catch shares. We’re working to bring this tool to more fisheries, both at home and abroad, by:

  • CONVINCING skeptical fishermen of the benefits of catch shares through educational field trips with other fishermen in catch share programs in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
  • HELPING fishermen and regulators set up well-designed programs tailored to their needs using in-depth online tools we created.
  • WORKING on the Hill to educate congressional staff on the value of catch shares.
  • FENDING OFF opponents of catch shares from banning new programs.
  • PARTNERING with local groups in Belize and Mexico and empowering fishermen to improve their livelihoods and restore fish populations through catch shares.
  • SCALING UP our successful model to end overfishing in small-scale international fisheries.

Policy resources

EDF is working on the ground, domestically and abroad, to ensure that strong fisheries are rebuilt, ones that provides a stable supply of seafood while contributing to healthy and resilient ocean ecosystems.

Learn more

More policy resources »

Media contact

  • Matt Smelser(512) 691-3420 (office)
    (512) 731-3023 (cell)
    envelope Email Matt