“a Federal permit under a limited access system to harvest a quantity of fish, expressed by a unit or units representing a percentage of the total allowable catch of a fishery that may be received or held for exclusive use by a person" (MSFCMA, Sec. 3[21]). Individual fishing quotas have been used worldwide since the late 1970s. A few countries, particularly Canada, New Zealand, and Iceland, have significant experience in the benefits and problems of developing, implementing, and managing IFQs. This tool has been adopted in four U.S. fisheries (Alaskan halibut and sablefish, wreckfish, and surf clams/ocean quahogs), and programs were about to be implemented in two other fisheries when Congress intervened through enactment of the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996, establishing a moratorium on new programs. Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences to study a wide range of questions concerning the social, economic, and biologic effects of IFQs and other limited entry systems and to make recommendations about existing and future IFQ programs.

A committee with expertise in fisheries biology and management, anthropology, economics, law, political science, and business was established to study all aspects of IFQs in response to the request from Congress. Over a seven-month period, the committee held hearings in Anchorage, Seattle, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Boston. It heard testimony from fishermen, processors, state and federal regulators, academicians, environmental groups, and members of the public, and received a large amount of written material. This report is the result of the committee's deliberations.

The many witnesses who addressed the committee at its five hearings provided a broad view of the real and perceived effects of existing and proposed IFQ programs. Just as there is tremendous variation among U.S. fisheries, their regulations vary according to perceived necessities in each region and the dynamics of the regional fishery management councils. Again and again, the committee was warned against a "one-size-fits-all" approach. The committee was entreated to respect the individual needs of fisheries, fishing communities, and fishing regions, and to refrain from endorsing rigid blueprints at the expense of hard-won measures, carefully crafted to address unique local biologic and social conditions.

Critics as well as supporters of IFQs recognized that this tool arose in response to real and pressing fishery problems—situations in which other types of regulation had failed to prevent a race for fish and overharvesting, and in which economic efficiency, safety, and product quality suffered. For example, in Alaska's halibut fishery prior to implementation of the IFQ programs, the season was progressively reduced in an attempt to maintain the annual catch of halibut within the TAC. In response, fishermen increased the number of vessels in their fleets and used larger and larger vessels, with more and more gear. The frenzied derbies1 sometimes forced the fishing fleet to operate in dangerous weather, exacerbated ghost fishing from gear lost in the race for fish, and created incen-

1  

See glossary (Appendix F) for definition of terms.



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