NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Preserving Fish Populations

April 9, 2004

Marketable fishing quotas are working in Canada by extending the fishing season and providing more fresh fish to market, according to Laura Jones, formerly of Canada's Fraser Institute.

In her book, "Managing Fish: Ten Case Studies from Canada's Pacific Coast," Jones and coauthor Miriam Bixby examine the impact of individual fishing quotas, implemented in 1991. According to the authors:

  • The length of the fishing season increased from 6 days to 214 days, eliminating the incentive for fishermen to work in dangerous weather.
  • The extended length of the fishing season enabled fishermen to sell more live fish (as opposed to frozen) -- percentage of geoduck (a species of large, saltwater clam) sold live has increased over 100 percent since 1989.
  • Individual fishing quotas allow more efficient fishermen to purchase quotas from those who are less efficient, eliminating the need for taxpayers subsidizing less efficient production.

Before enacting individual fishing quotas, previous government attempts at preserving fish included limiting boat size, net size and fishing season.

Jones recommends further changes in Canada's fishing policies, including expansion of the individual quota system to include sports fisheries, with allowable trading of quotas between sports and commercial fishermen, and enforcing quota rules in roe herring and other fish industries.

Source: Jeremy Brown and Kenneth Green, "The Art of Fish Management," Fraser Forum, February 2004 and Gordon H. Scott, "The Economic Theory of a Common Property Resource: The Fishery," Journal of Political Economy, 1954; and Laura Jones and Miriam Bixby, Managing Fish: Ten Case Studies from Canada's Pacific Coast, Fraser Institute, 2003.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues