Management, Overfishing, & Alaskan Halibut


Arne Fuglvog

Arne Fuglvog

Commercial fisherman, Petersburg, Alaska

In the derby days we would set as much gear as possible because we would only have 24 or 48 hours to fish. And a lot of times, you didn't get all of your gear back, especially if the weather was really bad. So there'd be all of this lost gear on the bottom, ghost fishing, and catching and killing millions of pounds of fish. There was an unlimited number of vessels, all trying to race and catch as much fish as possible in this set amount of time. We knew we only had one, maybe two shots at it, to make our entire living.

Under the present ITQ system, we have an 8-month season. We can choose when we go out and fish. We can go when the prices are high. We can work it around our crew schedule, our family schedule. We fish totally different now.

I do think it's true that ITQs have fostered better stewardship. And one of the main reasons is that we do own part of the resource. We want to keep the resource healthy. We don't want to overfish it. We want to keep making a living at it for as long as we can and keep it for future generations.

Suzanne Ludicello

Suzanne Ludicello

Author of Fish, Markets, and Fishermen: The Economics of Overfishing

There might be a way out of this escalating race to fish, but it's going to take both sides of the fishery management tool kit. The conventional side that we've used for years is to limit the number of fish that we allow fishermen to catch by setting quotas or setting seasons and so on.

We've overbuilt our fleets around the world and we've got to find ways not only to limit the number of fish that we take out so those populations can rebuild, but to reduce the number of vessels and gear chasing those fish.

What the system needs to do is to build options so that there is an assurance that if you back down today, if you forego some income, then there will be something more for you tomorrow.

Dr. Daniel Pauly

Dr. Daniel Pauly

Professor of Fisheries Science, British Columbia

One of the paradoxes about fisheries is that the catch could be increased by fishing less. I think that globally if each of the fish populations were exploited at its appropriate level, you would actually see an increase.

This is not science fiction. It could be done quite straightforwardly and everywhere it has been possible to break the cycle of despair, it has been possible to massively increase catches. So in a sense it's possible in fisheries to eat your cake and have it too but for this you have to break this notion that fishing more is the thing.

Until recently you had this absurd situation where you had to prove that fishing had a deleterious impact before you could propose that fishing should be restrained. There are different interpretations of what the precautionary approach is. But basically it's the notion that absence of knowledge is the reason for restraint rather than for moving ahead. It's the much-needed reversal of the burden of proof.