• Catch shares;
  • fisheries;
  • marine conservation;
  • market-based approaches;
  • policy evaluation;
  • property-rights


Rights-based approaches are potentially promising tools to meet conservation objectives in natural resource management. Here, we evaluated how population status and fishery production respond to catch shares, a rights-based policy instrument in fisheries whereby participants are granted a right to harvest a fraction of the allowable catch. By analyzing time series of landings, exploitation rate, and population biomass for >150 fisheries, we find that catch shares tended to dampen variance in fishery landings and exploitation rate, that they had no effect on population biomass, and that the responses were unrelated to population status prior to catch shares. Variance dampening was strongest when harvesting rights were durable and secure but was absent otherwise. Reductions in exploitation rate were strongest in multispecies fisheries with high levels of at-sea observers. Although benefits are not guaranteed, successful catch share programs share common elements that can be incorporated in the design of future programs.