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Catch Shares – The Environmental Defense Fund and Catch Shares

EDF influence has rewritten the government’s policies on fisheries management.


The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is a not-for-profit environmental advocacy group based in the United States but active around the world. According to their Web site, they partner with businesses, governments and communities to find practical environmental solutions. They have been active in a variety of causes, including global warming, wildlife, air, water and human health.

The EDF is a strong proponent of catch shares. The large and influential organization is one of the main reasons NOAA has adopted catch shares as its new fisheries management mechanism.

In 2009, former EDF Vice-Chairwoman Dr. Jane Lubchenco was named the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator by President Barack Obama. She is the head of NOAA. Curiously, her tenure at EDF is omitted from her extensive resume in her 500 word biographical information on her NOAA Web page.

According to the EDF’s published stance, catch shares have been proven across the globe - in the U.S., 20 countries and in hundreds of fisheries. They claim research has shown that catch shares are effective in protecting fish stocks and even improve industry profitability. Giving fishermen a percentage of an allowable catch, a “catch share”, will end overfishing.

EDF believes catch shares give fishermen better incentive “to become good stewards of the resource”. Conservation today will result in bigger catch-share in the future. They do recognize, however, that there is a price to be paid for these benefits which can be “particularly hard hitting for some individuals and communities”.

By enforcing strict limitations, catch shares help increase fish stocks, including not only the targeted species but also the bycatch species, also called “discards”. Fishing is therefore considered to become more efficient, increasing revenues. However, some of this increase is caused by a decrease in the number of fishing vessels because they cannot survive on meager shares. Regardless of their misfortune the fleet reduced and made more efficient.

EDF also states that catch shares prevent fishery collapse, improve economic benefits, reduce discards and increase safety.

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