Design and Implementation of Catch Share Programs

Catch share programs can take a wide variety of forms depending on the needs and goals of the fishing communities, fishery managers, and other stakeholders in each fishery. They are just one management option NOAA Fisheries and regional fishery management councils can choose to meet their fishery management objectives.

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Guiding Principles

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) outlines requirements for limited access privilege programs, a type of catch share. NOAA Fisheries also recommends following the guiding principles below to give programs the best chance of success.

  • Identify specific management goals: All fishery management programs, including catch shares, should identify specific measurable goals for management.

  • Ensure fair and equitable allocations: For all fishery management programs, including catch shares, the underlying harvest allocations to specific fishery sectors (e.g., commercial and recreational) should be revisited regularly. The basis for the allocation should include consideration of conservation, economic, and social criteria to further the goals of the underlying fishery management plan and MSA.

  • Promote flexibility and access via transferability: Councils should thoroughly assess the net benefits of catch share transferability (i.e., the ability to sell quota share or lease quota pounds between entities), including allowing inter-sector transfers to both promote future access opportunities and contribute to conservation and management goals.

  • Acknowledge distinctions among sectors: The Catch Share Policy does not require any fishery or sector (e.g., commercial, recreational, or subsistence) to adopt catch shares. Councils should consider the appropriateness of catch share programs and decide which sectors, if any, may benefit from their use. NOAA will support the design and implementation of catch share programs for the commercial and recreational charter and head boat sectors as appropriate, but does not advocate the use of individual private angler catch shares. However, NOAA will support councils in the identification and application of innovative management measures that both promote recreational fishing access and foster sustainable fisheries.

  • Define the duration of the program: The duration of every catch share program should be explicitly defined. According to the MSA the duration cannot exceed 10 years.

  • Promote fishing community sustainability: Councils should develop policies to engage with fishing communities, promote their sustained participation, and take advantage of the community provisions in the MSA. NOAA will work in partnership with councils, other federal agencies, and coastal states to promote sustainable fishing communities, resource access, and co-management principles (including the MSA’s fishing community and regional fishery association provisions), and to build fishing communities’ capacity to develop and use permit banks and other sustainability tools.

  • Consider royalty provisions: NOAA will assist councils if and when they determine that it is in the public interest to collect royalties for the initial or subsequent allocations in a limited access privilege program.

  • Implement cost recovery: Incremental government costs for management, data collection and analysis, and enforcement of limited access privilege programs shall be recovered from participants as required by the MSA.

  • Track performance and conduct periodic reviews: Councils should periodically review all catch share and non–catch share programs to ensure that management goals are specified, measurable, tracked, and used to gauge whether a program is meeting its goals and objectives.

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Considering Potential Impacts

While catch shares are a successful tool in many instances, they are not appropriate for every fishery. They can result in consolidation of the harvesting sector because some fishermen holding shares choose to sell their privileges. . There have also been concerns expressed about how catch share programs might affect current jobs in the fishery, new entrants to the fishery, or fishing communities. Such potential impacts should be considered in the design, implementation, and evaluation of catch shares. Existing programs have used various tools to address these impacts, including “owner on board” provisions, excessive share caps, and development of loan programs to support new and existing fishermen. NOAA Fisheries, stakeholders, and councils need to think through the multitude of trade-offs that come with the design of catch share programs.

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More Information

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