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Effects Of Individual Quotas On Catching Efficiency And Spawning Potential In The Alaska Sablefish Fishery

Michael F Sigler, Chris R Lunsford

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Individual fishery quota (IFQ) management eliminates the race for fish and may improve economic efficiency, conservation, and safety in fisheries. Empirical information documenting these effects is limited, even though IFQs have been used since the late 1970s. We analyzed fishery data from the Alaska sablefish (Anoplopoma fimbria) longline fishery, which came under IFQ management in 1995. We compared the fishery data with fishery-independent survey data, which acted as a control to separate annual changes in population demographics from changes due to IFQ management. We found that IFQ management increased fishery catch rate and decreased harvest of immature fish. Catching efficiency increased 1.8 times with the change from an open-access to an IFQ fishery. The improved catching efficiency of the IFQ fishery reduced variable costs to catch the quota from 8 to 5% of landed value, a savings averaging $3.1 million US annually. Decreased harvest of immature fish improved the chance that individual fish will reproduce at least once. Spawning potential of sablefish, expressed as spawning biomass per recruit, increased 9% for the IFQ fishery. Switching from the open-access fishery's race for fish to IFQs provided two clear benefits that should be considered when evaluating management options for other open-access fisheries.