Instead of risky shorter seasons, a shared catch-limit allows fishermen to work whenever they want. Today, more than half of all seafood caught in US waters is in 'catch-shares' management. That’s good for both fisheries and fishermen and their communities.
Some reports make startling predictions about overfishing and the collapse of ocean life. Fishermen, local fishing communities, and conservation groups like ours are working to identify and implement fishery management tools to head off these tragic forecasts.
Some tools are proving to be better than others.
Over the past few decades, the primary strategy has been to reduce the amount of fish that can be caught and to cut the duration of fishing seasons. The idea behind this approach is simple and admirable – but at times the method has been inadequate to the task.
True, shortening seasons can reduce overall pressure on stock. But history has shown that limited seasons are not always a long-term conservation solution – and cause problems for fishermen and fishing communities.
While the fishing season is closed, fishermen can’t earn a living. And shorter seasons can lead to a “race to fish.” Fishermen try to catch as many fish as they can as quickly as possible. That risks unintentional overfishing, venturing out in dangerous weather, and tossing back fish – often dead – due to various rules.
A “fishing derby” also produces a market glut, with every boat bringing in its catch at the same time, depressing prices.
But the past decade or so has brought real progress using new and innovative management tools.