Fisheries often fall prey to overfishing and the exhaustion of stock. Fishing governance is an ongoing attempt to prevent such an outcome. Over time, fisheries regulation has generally moved from controls on inputs to controls on output, such as catch limits and Individual Transferable Quotas. Individual Transferable Quotas have reduced overcapitalization, and have in some cases allowed stocks to rebuild. However, because they enable market trading of catch shares which tends to concentrate fisheries in fewer hands.
This paper proposes applying a duty of stewardship to the existing fisheries governance structure. “Stewardship” is an obligation to be responsible for taking care of another person’s property. The concept of stewardship easily applies to fisheries, because fisheries are natural resources which belong to the public. Current regimes, such as Individual Transferable Quotas (“ITQs”) do not do enough to prevent the employment of destructive fishing practices and place the burden of natural resource management on the government. Assigning a duty of stewardship upon fishers, whether they own or lease an ITQ, would require fishers to be stewards of common resources and use responsible fishing practices.