Fisheries: is bycatch an unintended consequence…

…of US regulations? This article by Tom Gogola makes that case. The thesis is plausible, but Gogola’s evidence is anecdotal, including personal observation on some NE commercial boats. As I was reading, I kept thinking “could property rights fix this problem?”.

Gogola’s experience is in one of the zones still regulated by “derby fishing” (it’s remarkable that the US is so far behind in fisheries regulation). I think that switching to ITQ (Individual Tradeable Quotas) would reduce this bycatch problem significantly. In the article Gogola brings up this point – in the NE fisherman refer to ITQ as “catch-shares”:

(…)Derby fishing means that fishermen will “hit it hard, often in bad weather,” says Benaka, in order to get their share of the overall quota. Under catch-shares, “each boat has a right to catch a certain amount of fish in the season; they can fish when they want to, they can base their schedule on the weather, how safe it is, the markets—when the market might peak, when they can get a better price,” he says. “If they are fishing in that manner rather than under a tight deadline, they’ll be more careful and will try to reduce the bycatch”; i.e., they will fish in a way designed to maximize their yield and minimize the time spent sorting through the catch to get at the fish for market.

Read the whole thing — a good article. And please, tell your elected reps to eliminate “derby fishing” in favor of ITQ (it works).