Reduced Catch for Net Gain

The profit motive that has driven the world's fisheries to near collapse could also save them. In a review of four fisheries, economists at the Australian National University in Canberra and the University of Washington conclude that reducing fishing yields in the short term boosts fishing profits in the long run. The reason: as fish become more plentiful, it costs less to catch them. There is a catch: the people who reduce their catch to rebuild stocks need to be the same ones that benefit from the reduced costs of fishing, which implies some form of exclusive access. Moreover, people who are not fishing now because it is unprofitable cannot be allowed to join in later. “Individual transferable quotas” would give fisherfolk shares in a total allowable catch, the economists suggest. Fishery managers in Alaska and New Zealand have tried such a system with positive results. Reel in the analysis from the December 7, 2007, Science.

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