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Sustaining America’s Fisheries and Fishing Communities


Environmental Defense, a leading nonprofit organization composed this study on ways to preserve fishing destinations across the US. The document presents a number of ways to help sustain the environment while not encroaching too heavily on the valuable and necessary fishing markets. In addition to proposed strategies, the document also includes graphs that document the study’s findings.

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ABOUT THIS STUDY “Sustaining America’s Fisheries and Fishing Communities” was a 14-month, $1.2 million research project undertaken by Environmental Defense in partnership with the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Redstone Strategy Group performed quantitative analysis. LEARN MORE More details on catch shares and LAPPs are available at

To be sustainable, a fishery needs to have limits on catch levels, low bycatch rates and protection for key habitats. Despite progress in some fisheries, traditional approaches to fishery management have proven unreliable in protecting either fish or fisherman. These problems are a fundamental consequence of trying to manage fisheries as a commons. In a commons, where shares of the catch are not specified, each fisherman’s economic survival is predicated on his ability to fish as hard as possible, whenever possible. As stocks predictably decline, this dynamic too often plays out in a downward spiral of species depletion and economic failures. But the tide is turning. We know now how to protect the environment, increase profits, provide higher quality fish, create more full-time jobs and even save lives at sea.
THE CRUCIAL MISSING INGREDIENT IS SIMPLE YET PROFOUND: ALIGNING ECONOMIC INCENTIVES WITH THE HEALTH OF THE OCEANS., as is a PDF version of the full 32-page report from which this brochure is drawn. ABOUT US Environmental Defense, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 500,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most urgent environmental problems.

Sustaining America’s Fisheries and Fishing Communities

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Catch Shares + Traditional Management = More Sustainable Fisheries
“CATCH SHARES” ARE ALSO KNOWN AS “LAPPS” OR “LIMITED ACCESS PRIVILEGE PROGRAMS.” They are innovative, incentive-based tools that align the economic interests of fishermen with ecological and safety concerns. Catch shares work hand-in-glove with other management approaches. They allocate a dedicated share of a fishery’s total catch to individual fishermen, communities or associations. If the fishery is well managed, the value of these shares increases as the stock expands.

The results are truly impressive.
▲ Catch limits. All catch share fisheries have catch limits and fishermen comply with them more than 90% of the time (A). ▲ Bycatch. About one-fourth of the world’s total catch is tossed back dead or dying. This harmful bycatch of unintended species is reduced 40% under catch shares (B). ▲ Safety. With catch shares, safety more than doubles, based on an index of vessels lost, lives lost, search and rescue missions and recorded safety violations (C). ▲ Economic performance. Revenues per boat shot up 80% in five years with catch shares due to higher yields and dockside prices (D). Moreover, catch share fisheries deploy 20% less gear to catch the same amount of fish. They all include time or area-based closures to help replenish stocks. And nearly 75% have science-based monitoring, compared to just 25% of noncatch share fisheries. Simply put, when well-designed catch share programs are added to the fisheries management mix, environmental damage decreases significantly and economic performance increases substantially.

Based on these findings we recommend:
▲ Implementing catch shares more widely. Catch shares are a key component to maintaining sustainable fisheries and vibrant fishing communities. ▲ Ensuring effective program design. Educate stakeholders. Streamline the design process. And carefully prioritize funding. ▲ Investing in the future. Some of the increased value created by catch shares should be reinvested in fisheries and local fishing communities themselves. ▲ Constant review. Catch share programs should be adaptive to continuously improve performance and address new issues. This requires updated science as well as a robust process for addressing necessary management changes.

“ Environmental gains occurred
even though early LAPPs were not designed with that in mind.


“ Current LAPP programs
already save the equivalent of 16 million Americans’ annual seafood consumption.


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