Throughout the United States, regional fisheries are being forced to comply with new regulations that are dramatically changing the fishing industry and the livelihoods of fishermen. These regulations have been pitched as a way to end overfishing, motivate resource stewardship, and increase productivity, profits and long-term stability for fishermen. These controversial management tools, officially called “catch shares“ or “individual fishing quotas” (IFQs), are similar in approach to the widely criticized cap-and-trade programs meant to resolve air pollution problems. “Catch-and-trade” systems are being heavily promoted by the federal government, despite much opposition and concern, as a way to better manage and monitor fisheries in the United States.
Unfortunately, most catch-and-trade programs fall short of these goals, and instead effectively turn public resources — our fish — into private property. Privatized catch-and-trade systems divide up the fish in our oceans and give access to them only to certain companies and individuals, putting fishing privileges in the hands of a few, often larger corporate interests.
Such programs have done little to encourage sustainable fishing practices or stop fish populations from becoming depleted and, in some cases, have actually worsened these problems. Smaller, historic fishermen are continually being forced out of fishing, and wages have plummeted for those able to find work fishing. Worldwide, catch-and-trade programs that privatize fisheries have proven unsuccessful and even devastating for fishing communities, marine environments and consumers.