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Sharing catches may help world’s fish stocks recover

Posted: Friday 19 September 08, 1.23pm GMT

Source: The Independent Friday, 19 September 2008.

A radical method of preserving fish stocks by sharing catches between vessels and keeping within limits has helped some collapsed stocks recover, a study of the controversial strategy found.

The so-called “catch shares” method has been a resounding success in New Zealand, Australia and Iceland where it has been practised instead of a traditional free-for-all approach, scientists said.

The method guarantees each shareholder a fixed portion of a fishery’s total allowable catch, which is set each year by scientists. These shares can be bought and sold between shareholders with shares becoming more valuable when fish populations increase.

Scientists believe the system means that every shareholder has a financial stake in the long-term health of the fishery, which is not the case under the existing “open access” system, said Christopher Costello, an economist at the University of California at Santa Barbara whose study is published in Science.

“Under open access, you have a free-for-all race to fish, which ultimately leads to collapse. But when you allocate shares of the catch, then there is an incentive to protect the stock – which reduces collapse. We saw this across the globe. It’s human nature,” Dr Costello said.

Fish stocks around the world are in serious long-term decline, with some predictions forecasting little or no fish left to eat by the middle of the century. However, the scientists behind the latest study said that a change in fisheries management could reverse the decline.

Posted by
Jennifer Todd

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