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Dockside Enforcement Vital for Enforcing Catch Share Systems

June 2012

(Washington, DC) — Environmental Law Institute (ELI) staff today published a study in Marine Policy providing quantitative evidence that the introduction of catch shares for fisheries management results in significant changes to enforcement practice and compliance behavior. Catch share programs are replacing effort-based fisheries management because they provide fishermen with incentives to support sustainability. However, the relationship of these programs with compliance and enforcement behavior is not well understood.

Based on historical enforcement data and surveys of catch share owners, the authors found that the shift to catch shares in the Gulf of Mexico commercial reef fish fishery has been associated with a decline in the overall number of cases and a shift in the mix of cases—enforcement incidents related to reporting and recordkeeping are now more common, while catch limit and permit cases have declined.

Fishermen themselves also report that although compliance has increased under catch share management, noncompliance remains high. “Crucially, fishermen themselves call for an increase in enforcement,” said Read Porter, lead author of the study. “This suggests that the management system has successfully created incentives for holders of catch shares to play by the rules and to support stock recovery.”

Based on these results, the authors conclude that:

  • Adequate dockside enforcement (as opposed to enforcement at sea) is vital for enforcing catch share systems.
  • Increased landings monitoring would improve confidence in landings records.
  • An integrated, comprehensive enforcement database would enhance future analyses.

While the study indicates improvements in compliance and enforcement under catch shares, increased enforcement resources are needed to ensure continued compliance benefits and to ensure the accuracy of landings records. “Recent changes in fisheries management have created a new, increased demand for dockside enforcement,” said ELI President John C. Cruden. “To have sustainable fisheries, we must have a robust enforcement effort. Congress needs to provide the resources necessary to effectively deter illegal fishing and protect the investments made by fisherman in future stock sustainability.”