In New England there is a program in place designed to help recover overfished species. Fisheries managers there have been implementing a system, known as « catch shares » aimed at regulating the harvesting of groundfish. A brief description:
« Where previous systems enforced seasonal, area-based and other limits to reduce catches, catch shares give set quotas to individual fishermen, who are then free to decide how and when to fill them. They can also lease quotas to others or, as in Marciano’s case, sell them off. In theory, catch shares have economic and ecological benefits, making for steadier income streams for fishermen and improving incentives for environmentally friendly practices. »
« Considered a market-based solution, the idea is to minimize the competition for a limited resource by giving individual fishers the right to catch a certain amount of fish. Among the potential benefits, quotas can stabilize fishermen’s income and allow them to fill their quotas whenever they like, spreading out fishing efforts. Doing away with season restrictions reduces ‘derby’ conditions, in which fishermen race out, even in dangerous weather, to catch as much as possible. It also eliminates seasonal market gluts, potentially increasing the prices fishermen can command for their catch. On the ecological side, catch shares can be designed to limit the catch of non-target fish, increase populations of regulated fish and possibly encourage better resource stewardship. »
Predictably, the new system isn’t popular with everyone, and success depends on the will of politicians to resist pressure to address perceived economic inequities that befall some of the fishermen.