by Barry Estabrook
There’s Gotta be a Catch(share)
Wherever they have been implemented, so called “catch-share” management programs—which essentially give each fisherman an ownership stake of his quota of the legal catch instead of setting a fleet-wide annual limit—have proven good for fishermen, the fish they catch, and those of us who consume seafood. Catch-share systems have been shown to reduce the decline in fish populations in all areas of the world. So it was good news late last month when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) approved a catch-share plan for bottom-dwelling species caught off the Pacific coast.
The old laws promoted what the industry calls “derby” fishing, where captains would race out to try to catch as much as possible as quickly as possible, regardless of weather or market conditions. The method was also wasteful, encouraging sloppy practices that led to large rates of bycatch (unintended and unmarketable species) and harvests that exceeded the legal limit. In a catch-share system, each fisherman is assured a certain amount of the catch. He can fish when and where he chooses. For consumers, it means a steady supply of local fresh fish, rather than a glut of seafood that has to be frozen or trucked to distant markets.