School of hard knocksIn this month’s Atlantic, Gregg Easterbrook writes that privatizing the seas through use of individualized transferrable quotas (ITQs) is the solution to the grave problem of overfishing. Recently, NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco came out strongly (PDF) in favor of ITQs (which the agency is calling “catch shares”), and has committed her agency to “transitioning to catch shares” as a solution to overfishing. Would that the solution to overfishing were so easy!
Today, fisheries managers set a “total allowable catch” (TAC) for open-access fisheries. A fishery is open until that TAC is reached. Not surprisingly, there is often a mad scramble to capture as large a share of fish as quickly as possible. Sometimes fisheries, like the pre-ITQ Alaskan halibut fishery, are only open for a few days, or even a few hours.
Catch shares work to eliminate this incentive to catch all of the fish today. Thus, Easterbrook contrasts the orderly halibut fishery in Alaska today with the free-for-all of the pre-ITQ days. And catch shares do make a fishery more orderly. When a boat has a right to a specified share of the TAC,... Read more