North America’s net gains

Report: Evidence confirms that catch shares bring back healthy fisheries and resilient economies

Environmental Defense Fund and Redstone Strategy Group compared 15 fisheries in the U.S. and British Columbia before and after implementing catch share programs. Their peer-reviewed study in the journal Marine Policy – Assessing catch shares’ effects: evidence from Federal United States and associated British Columbian fisheries – found that catch shares outperform the broken management system across the board. Graduating to catch shares yields a robust return on investment: longer seasons, lower risks, higher revenues, less waste, and more full-time jobs. To read the brochure click here. 

Key findings

The fisheries studied are diverse in gear type, geography, value and number of species managed encompassing a wide variety of North American fisheries. Researchers collected data at three stages: five years prior, one year prior, and five years after a fishery transitioned to catch share management. Their research found a situation of:

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  • Season Length Grew

    Expanding choices

    To reduce pressure, the flawed system compressed average seasons to 63 days. With secure quotas of fish at sea, catch shares gave fishermen freedom to choose the best days to harvest.

    In the first five years under catch shares, average fishing seasons increased to 245 days.

  • Compliance improved

    Building on trust

    The old system pitted fishermen against government officials. Under this system, catch limits were exceeded 44% of the time.

    Catch shares align the interest of both sides with secure and accountable quotas encouraging all parties to monitor pressure, share data and explore innovations. In near total compliance, catch share fisheries exceeded limits only five times across 86 seasons.

  • Commercial Discards Reduced

    Ending haste and waste

    Under the old system, regulatory restrictions drove commercial boats to dump excess seafood overboard. By encouraging careful fishing, catch shares dramatically reduced discards.

    Within ten years, Alaskan pollock, sablefish and halibut fisheries reduced discards by 50-65% under catch shares.

  • Catch per Boat Increased

    Growing the pie

    With long-term incentives for efficiency and care, catch shares help each fishery to recover. As it grows resilient, catch limits can also steadily increase, ensuring everyone's 'piece slice' gets bigger.

    Under catch shares, limits rose 13% after five years, and 19% after ten years.

  • Revenue Increased

    Banking on fish

    The old system shrank fisheries' size, efficiency and value. Catch shares reverse that. Flexibility boosts revenues and reduces waste and fuel costs. It widens profit margins, provides longer seasons, avoids market gluts and delivers a fresher product bringing higher prices ashore.

    Under catch shares, fleet-wide revenues increased 27% after five years, and 68% after ten.

  • Safety Increased

    Avoiding needless risks

    Fishing remains a dangerous profession. But catch shares let captains choose when to fish. Now they have time to make repairs and crews can take breaks during storms, and save trips for fair weather.

    Fishing safety tripled; search and rescue missions decreased from 33 per year to 10 under catch shares in the Alaska halibut fishery.

  • Employment Stabilized

    Securing good jobs

    Under the broken regulatory system, total employment declined 51%. Now that boats aren't forced to race the clock and hire short-term and part-time crews, longer seasons allow opportunities for full-time employment to quadruple, often with better paying jobs.

    Under catch shares, crew wages in the Alaska crab fishery increased 66%.