How do individual transferable quotas affect marine ecosystems?


Trevor A Branch, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, Box 355020, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA Tel.: +1 206 221 5457
Fax: +1 206 685 7471


Published papers were reviewed to assess ecosystem impacts of individual transferable quotas (ITQs) and other dedicated access systems. Under ITQs, quota shares increase with higher abundance levels, thus fishers may request lower total allowable catches (TACs) and pay for monitoring and research that improves fishery sustainability. Mortality on target species generally declines because catches are closer to TACs and because ghost fishing through lost and abandoned gear decreases. High-grading and discarding often decline, but may increase if landings (and not catches) count against ITQs and when there is little at-sea enforcement. Overall, ITQs positively impact target species, although collapses can occur if TACs are set too high or if catches are routinely allowed to exceed TACs. Fishing pressure may increase on non-ITQ species because of spillover from ITQ fisheries, and in cases where fishers anticipate that future ITQ allocations will be based on catch history and therefore increase their current catches. Ecosystem and habitat impacts of ITQs were only sparsely covered in the literature and were difficult to assess: ITQs often lead to changes in total fishing effort (both positive and negative), spatial shifts in effort, and fishing gear modifications. Stock assessments may be complicated by changes in the relationship between catch per unit effort, and abundance, but ITQ participants will often assist in improving data collection and stock assessments. Overall, ITQs have largely positive effects on target species, but mixed or unknown effects on non-target fisheries and the overall ecosystem. Favourable outcomes were linked to sustainable TACs and effective enforcement.