There are Many Tools for Effective Fisheries Management: Preventing unintended negative consequences of catch shares
Mark J. Spalding, President

Threats to the health of our ocean are intensifying. Overfishing, bycatch and destructive fishing gear remain major culprits in the destruction of marine life and habitats, which are also threatened by ocean warming caused by fossil fuel emissions, sea level rise and ocean acidification.

We have identified tools that support better fishery management—many of which have been implemented (albeit slowly) in the wake of the 1996 federal fisheries management law reform, and its more recent reauthorized 2006 version. A dedicated coalition worked step by step at the national level and at each of the 8 fishery management councils to educate, promote, and support the use of these tools. In turn, substantial progress has been made in reducing overfishing in the waters of the United States. Every tool must stay in use to ensure that our fisheries continue to improve—and we must also avoid the temptation to declare any tool the one solution to all of our ills. Such solutions do not exist in real time, or in real life, and especially in complex systems such as those that make up our global ocean.

Unfortunately, a few of our tools, i.e. those promoting quotas and “ownership shares” of threatened fisheries, have been embraced as just such a “silver bullet solution,” although they were designed to address completely different problems, and despite their serious drawbacks and unintended consequences.

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