How catch shares work

A promising solution to revive fisheries and fishing communities

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

Catch shares are just one of many allocation-based tools available to fishery managers. These tools can be customized to meet the needs of individual fisheries—in both industrial and small-scale contexts.