“Catch share” regulations are essentially cap and trade for fishing. The government caps the total number fish that are allowed to be caught, and then assigns each fisherman a share he or she’s allowed to catch. The fisherman are then allowed to sell or trade their shares among themselves. Without catch share, each fisherman would be allowed to go out and catch all the fish they could find until the government’s upper limit for total catch was reached.
The environmentalists at the Environmental Defense Fund argue that catch share regulations reduce wasteful fishing practices, improve fishing safety, and increase profits. Sadly, the fisherman in New Hampshire don’t quite see it that way:
“One of the fishermen from Rye had said that there had been three suicide attempts and a half dozen divorces during this first year of catch-shares,” said Bob Campbell of the Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative. “Commercial fishermen are usually pretty tight-lipped, and for something this serious to come out, I mean, you know that the whole situation is grave.”
Campbell said the cooperative has lost about $750,000 in business since the new regulations went into effect.
“We’re off 1.1 million pounds of fish from last year, and over a million and a half pounds from the year before,” he said.
We can all understand the need for a certain amount of conservation when it comes to natural resources like fish. That being said, assigning everyone an allotment of fish only serves to stifle competition. The bigger fishing interests will buy up the shares, and drive the smaller competitors (who can’t survive on their share and can’t afford to buy other shares) out of business.