Risky and Dangerous Fishing May be Endangered by Catch Shares

First Posted: Feb 20, 2016 09:20 AM EST

Dangerous fishing may be endangered by catch shares in the future. Catch shares, a form of "rights-based" fisheries management adopted by several fisheries, could put an end to the type of exploits chronicled in the show, the Deadliest Catch.

In this latest study, the researchers looked at the risky behavior that makes fishing one of the most dangerous lines of work. The scientists found that this risky behavior dropped dramatically following the adoption of catch shares management in the West coast fixed gear sablefish fishery.

In fact, the decline in rough-weather fishing represents a revolution in risk-taking behavior by fishermen. The researchers also saw a reduction in injuries, pollution events, vessel losses, search-and-rescue missions and deaths from fishing accidents under catch shares management. In all, there was a 97 percent reduction in the rate of safety incidents that the U.S. Coast Guard reported for the sablefish fishery.

Traditional fisheries actually encourage risky behavior by requiring vessels to compete with each other to catch as much as possible in a limited season.

"Fishermen have the incentive to participate in around-the-clock fishing in all weather conditions, overload their vessels, and ignore maintenance problems to maximize catch," write the researchers in a news release. "These behaviors contribute considerably to the dangerous nature of commercial fishing."

The new findings show that altering risky behaviors could be as simple as instituting catch shares. Currently, NOAA Fisheries is expanding catch shares management to various West Coast fisheries.

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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