Are catch shares compatible with ecosystem-based management? Experts respond

Governments around the world are striving to implement ecosystem-based management (EBM) for their marine environments. At the same time, there is a trend toward applying catch shares to manage fisheries. Catch shares are systems in which the privilege to harvest a specific area or portion of a fishery's total catch is assigned to particular individuals or groups. (More details are in the box at the end of this article, "Common types of catch shares".) According to one study, 20-25% of global landings by volume and 15-20% by value are now managed under catch shares (

With the growing popularity of catch shares as a management tool, questions on how well this tool combines with others – like EBM – have emerged. EBM, for example, moves away from single-species or single-sector management and toward approaches that consider ecosystems as a whole. Catch shares, meanwhile, have primarily focused on allocation of single species – although there are increasing examples of multi-species fisheries, too, that have used catch-share programs.

Tundi’s Take: Can anything as narrow as catch shares propel us toward EBM?

By Tundi Agardy, Contributing Editor, MEAM. Email:

I find myself hopelessly adrift in appraising whether catch shares and ITQs work or not. As in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, the last person to speak is the one I find most convincing. In theory the idea of catch shares is the kind of paradigm-shifting management measure that we need. But in practice we have seen how transferable rights have led to market consolidation, empowering the already powerful, and sometimes pushing small-scale fishers into oblivion.

Perspective: Reducing non-climate stresses – not always a good idea?

By Jennie Hoffman

In the climate change adaptation world, as elsewhere, some big ideas that are assumed to rest on the best of scientific practice actually draw a significant portion of their support from "Well, it just makes sense." In these cases, a few well-documented examples are taken to indicate larger truths. But what if these assumptions are not always true?

The EBM Toolbox: From Paper to Digital – The Mobile App Revolution in Fisheries

By Ruby Gates

It's 3 a.m. and Ernest Quetel, Jr., and his brother Derek, third generation fishermen from the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, are sorting their catch. With only a few hours left before morning customers arrive, they still have to fill out their catch report – a lengthy paper form required by the Division of Fish and Wildlife for fisheries management. Once a week, Ernest and Derek carve out time to drive over to the east end of the island to deliver their stack of finished reports.