The Ecological Role of IFQs in U.S. Fisheries

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By Donald R. Leal, Michael De Alessi, and Pamela Baker

Pointing out that ocean fisheries have not been well managed generates little controversy. Proposals to fix the problem, however, are another matter.

One highly promising avenue for reforming fisheries management is the use of individual fishing quotas (IFQs). IFQs have ended the costly race for fish and reduced fleet excesses where traditional measures-- such as gear restrictions, shortened seasons, and area closures--have failed.

Still, IFQs are controversial, as evidenced by a congressional moratorium (which ended in 2002) on their use in federally managed ocean fisheries. To explore the issues surrounding IFQs, three organizations--PERC. the Reason Foundation, and Environmental Defense--are holding a series of briefings for federal policy makers and their staffs.

The first briefing and the subsequent booklet, Overcoming Hurdles to IFQs in U.S. Fisheries, addressed three contentious issues surrounding IFQ implementation. These were: whether a two-tiered system of fishing quotas and processor quotas is needed; what restrictions, if any, should be placed on transferability of IFQs; and whether IFQs should be in effect for only a limited time.

The second briefing in this series, held April 23, 2004, on Capitol Hill, featured three experts who discussed ways that IFQs improve the health of fish stocks and the broader marine environment. Addressing this topic fills a glaring need, as relatively little data have been presented on the ecological role of IFQs can play. This essay, The Ecological Role of IFQs in U.S. Fisheries, stems from that seminar.

Support for the briefing and this booklet is provided by the Alex C. Walker Educational and Charitable Foundation, the Bradley Fund for the Environment, the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the Wilkinson Foundation. Published by PERC, the Property and Environment Research Center, the booklet is edited by Jane S. Shaw, produced by Dianna Rienhart, and designed by Mandy-Scott Bachlier.

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Leal's research on natural resources and environmental issues spans nearly 20 years. His current focus is on preventing over-harvesting of marine resources and restoring ocean fisheries.Leal is working to build support for individual fishing quotas (IFQs) and fishing cooperatives as more effective alternatives to the current regulatory approach...
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