Using Incentives to Reduce Bycatch and Discarding: Results Under the West Coast Catch Share Program
Catch share management was implemented in the bottom trawl sector of the West Coast Groundfish fishery in 2011 to address a range of issues including high bycatch and discard rates. The catch share program was designed to remove the incentives to discard through full catch accounting, tradeable quotas, increased flexibility in fishing, and penalties for catch overages. We assess the effectiveness of the program in meeting its environmental objectives by comparing discard weights, proportions, and variability from 2004–2010 with 2011–2016. We analyzed these metrics for species managed using quota, including historically overfished stocks, as well as for non-quota species caught in the fishery. Discard amounts decreased over time for all species and declined to historic lows after the implementation of the program, remaining low through 2016 with much less inter-annual variability. Mean annual discards of two highly-targeted quota species, sablefish and Dover sole, showed the greatest decreases, falling by 97 and 86%, respectively. The discard proportion of overfished quota species fell by 50% on average. The unanticipated decline in discards of non-quota species as well as the decreased variability in discard amounts for all species indicate that the incentives produced by catch share management provided additional ecosystem benefits.