Catch shares have not led to catch-quota balancing in two North American multispecies trawl fisheries
Catch shares, where annual catch limits are divided among individuals, communities or cooperatives, are a commonly used fisheries management strategy to increase profits and reduce overcapitalization. Usually these quota shares can be sold or leased, which is theorized to allow for greater utilization of fleet-wide quota. However, this catch-quota balancing may not be achieved in multispecies trawl fisheries where it is difficult to selectively target valuable species while avoiding overfished species. Two similar catch-share-managed, multispecies trawl fisheries were compared to evaluate whether catch shares lead to catch-quota balancing. The U.S. West Coast Groundfish fishery has several species with low total allowable catches (TACs) while the Canadian British Columbia Trawl fishery has comparatively higher TACs. Results indicate that the West Coast fishery had a statistically significant decrease in catch-quota ratios from 0.41 in the three years before catch shares to 0.29 in the three years after catch shares. In contrast, the BC fishery experience no statistically significant change in fishery-wide average catch-quota ratios, which were 0.70 in the three years before and 0.62 in the three years after catch shares. In the West Coast fishery, the risk of exceeding quotas for some species may be so high that fishers are unable to achieve high degrees of catch-quota balancing and instead focus on species that can be easily selected with changes in fishing behavior. Multispecies fisheries management has direct tradeoffs between maximizing yield and achieving conservation goals, and these results may highlight the tradeoff between rebuilding overfished species by reducing TACs, and the achievement of catch-quota balancing.
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