Fact Sheet

Individual Fishing Quotas
A Failure in Fisheries Management


ndividual Fishing Quota (IFQ) programs - also called rationalization, individual transferable quotas or limited access privilege programs - are a form of privatizing fisheries. They grant certain individuals, including corporations, exclusive portions of the amount of fish that can be caught in a fishery. This failed attempt to manage our nation’s fisheries has resulted in an alarmingly consolidated industry that threatens the livelihood of fishermen, coastal communities and the marine ecosystems.
IFQs are essentially property rights, despite the fact that fisheries are a public resource, which tax dollars are used to oversee. Most of the catch is initially allocated to only a handful of large fishing businesses. Anyone who was not given an initial quota or new entrants into the fishery are then forced to pay prohibitive costs to purchase quotas from those who were simply given it for free upon the implementation of the program. The consolidation that occurs after implementing an IFQ program is unprecedented. This consolidation gives market power to those with the largest share of quota, and with fewer vessels on the water many crewmen are without work. In the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab fisheries, which now operate under a rationalization program, some 1,150 crewmen lost their jobs within one year of its 2005 implementation.1 In the halibut-sablefish IFQ program, 40 recipients received an average quota earning them $2.5 million while the remaining 4,000 recipients received an average quota earning them an average of a mere $10,000. Coastal communities suffer immensely from these job losses, and businesses that depend upon the number of people fishing are left out in the cold. Fishing traditions are lost as large fishing monopolies control the quota. Having fewer vessels on the water has not led to more sustainable fisheries, as strived for under IFQ systems because they are an economic tool rather than a conservation tool. Instead, they create a large incentive to cheat in order to maximize the value of the quota. What’s worse, certain programs allocate processing quota as well, giving large processing corporations control of the market. These corporations, many of them owned by Japan, now tell fishermen when to fish, what to fish, and how much they will get paid for it. Individual fishing quotas are a failed management that will only cause further harm to fish populations, coastal

Crab rationalization in Alaska. Photo courtesy Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Bycatch in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands crab fisheries increased dramatically after rationalization, with an estimated 5.8 million red king crab being discarded back into the sea.2 One in five discarded crab die.3

In the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands “crab rationalization” program, just one corporation was given 23.3 percent of the disastrous processing quota in Alaska’s most lucrative Bristol Bay red king crab fishery. Four Japanese corporations own nearly half of the remaining quota.4 communities and the marine ecosystems. Our nations fisheries need protecting and conserving through management systems that incorporate sound science, ecosystem approach and just community participation.
“Economic Impacts of BSAI Crab Rationalization on Kodiak Fishing Employment and Earnings and Kodiak Businesses.” Gunnar Knapp, Professor of Economics. Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, May, 2006. 2 Welch, Laine. “Crab rationalization program’s first report troubling.” SITNews (Ketchikan, Alaska), May 15, 2006. 3 Loy, Wesley. “Bristol Bay: Waste was wrong, officials, fishermen agree 677,000 tossed crab could pinch industry.” Anchorage Daily News, June 18, 2006. 4 Loy, Wesley. “Federal figures reveal top crabbers, processors.” Pacific Fishing, October 2005.

Alaskan King Crabs.

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