, Gloucester, MA

Fishing Industry Stories

September 8, 2009

'Distorting' catch share criticism

In June, the Environmental Defense Fund considered a critique of privatized fisheries — a goal of EDF — by Ecotrust Canada and found that the two organizations generally agree.

It was a conclusion Ecotrust Canada did not share.

EDF's Johanna Thomas wrote in an Environmental Defense Fund blog that she "just read 'A Cautionary Tale About ITQs in BC Fisheries' by Ecotrust Canada.

"What struck me most is that we seem to be moving beyond the debate about whether catch shares provide conservation benefits. It's clear that they do.

"In the paper, Ecotrust affirms the conservation benefits of ITQs, Individual Transferable Quotas, one form of a catch share. ... Our goal, which we share with Ecotrust and many other fishery stakeholders, is to maximize the positive socio-economic outcomes and minimize the negative ones — once conservation performance is assured."

Ecotrust Canada representatives, however, read the EDF blog with consternation, and blogged back:

"...Your blog posting makes our report sound like a glowing reference for ITQs and minimizes our critique of some fundamental problems as experienced in British Columbia, Canada.

"We are also not in agreement that catch shares alone will conserve fish stocks: other factors, like restricting destructive gear, ensuring proper enforcement and stock assessment, are perhaps even more important. In fact, we have seen fish stock declines in catch share fisheries in BC, including abalone, halibut and hake.

"A proper and more balanced reading of our report," wrote Eric Enno Tamm, communications manager of Ecotrust Canada, "would suggest that, as implemented in BC, catch shares have created huge market distortions and have missed the mark in achieving a number of objectives."

Richard Gaines can be reached at

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