Catch Shares Are The Wrong Kind of Regulation
A recent editorial by the New York Times attributed the successful rebuilding of six fish stocks to a management scheme called catch shares. Putting aside the fact that only three of those stocks are under a catch share, the entire comparison is flawed.
The Times criticizes republicans in Congress and their fishermen allies for hating the environment. “Add fish and oceans to the long list of environmental issues that House Republicans do not much care about,” opens the piece. But equating catch shares to any other environmental issue overlooks the larger point: catch shares are a way of managing fishermen, not fish.
Fish sustainability is guaranteed by setting scientifically-based limits on the total number of fish that can be caught each year. These are called annual catch limits, and are mandated under our nation’s key fishing law. The United States is leading the way in setting and enforcing these limits, and the hard work is paying off as more and more fisheries recover. This is the sort of regulation our oceans need—not catch shares.
Catch shares, currently being pushed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are a way of distributing portions of that total catch to individual fishermen, in a way that is often grossly unfair. Catch shares cause significant unemployment and financial hardship among our nation’s traditional small fishermen and their communities. Since catch shares always come packaged with an annual catch limit, the gains made setting sustainable limits are often attributed to catch shares management. But catch limits and catch shares are not the same thing.
Contrary to what the Times editorial board thinks, Congress isn’t trying to hurt fish; they’re trying to stop NOAA from hurting fishermen.