Harnessing incentives to promote sustainability
Traditional methods of managing fisheries have left many stocks depleted and many fishing communities in economic turmoil. In a classic case of the tragedy of the commons, too many fisherman race to catch too few fish, resulting in unsafe working conditions and unsustainable practices.
Working with EDF, Redstone analyzed evidence from an alternative, incentive-based approach to managing fisheries: catch shares. This system dedicates a secure share of fish or a fishing area to individuals, communities, or fishing associations. Every year, a limit is set on how many fish can be caught—known as total allowable catch—and then divided among the participants. Captains can then set sail and fish whenever they choose, such as during favorable weather or when prices in the fish market are higher. Often, fishermen can buy and sell their shares, which improves flexibility and enhances economic efficiency—all while conserving the natural resource.
Redstone’s research, published in the December 2010 issue of the Journal of Sustainable Development and the May 2012 issue of Marine Policy, showed there are numerous benefits to adopting catch share systems:
- Environment: compliance with total allowable catch increases while reducing discards undesirable fish, thereby improving the health of fisheries.
- Economics: vessel yields rise, total revenues grow, and long-term stock increases are encouraged.
- Social: worker safety increases, some port areas modestly consolidate, needed processing capacity often declines, and labor markets shift from part-time to full-time jobs with similar total employment.
- Finances: converting to catch shares should reduce the U.S. federal budget deficit by making fisherman more profitable and recovering some management costs.