Prior Years Provide Context for Catch Share Programs

To discern the effects of a catch share program, it is essential to know what happened before the catch share program began, and to compare the catch share years to the pre-catch share years. Are the conditions seen during the catch share years different from those before? Did distinct changes happen only after the catch share program began? Or are the conditions part of a long-term trend that began prior to catch shares? Do conditions during the catch share program fall within the normal range of variation that occurred previously? To answer those questions, the Measuring the Effects of Catch Shares project analyzed data from a baseline period that preceded the catch share programs.

Project Baseline Period Starts in 2002

For the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program, which began in 2010, the project baseline period extends from 2002 through 2009. For the West Coast Shorebased Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program, which began in 2011, the baseline period covers from 2002 through 2010. The project baselines are longer than those reported by NOAA, which uses a three-year average from 2007 through 2009 for the Northeast Multispecies Sector Program and a five-year average from 2006 through 2010 for the West Coast Shorebased Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) Program.

In the timeline below, white bars indicate the project baseline periods for the Northeast (2002-2009) and the West Coast (2002-2010). The timeline also shows selected relevant management actions. Gray bars indicate the baseline periods used by NOAA in its annual reports. (Note: For standardized economic performance reviews covering all U.S. catch share programs, NOAA uses only three-year averages, not the five-year average used in its annual reports on the West Coast Shorebased IFQ Program.)

Rationale for Project Baseline

We selected 2002 as the beginning of the baseline period for the following reasons:

  • The baseline covers a relatively long period prior to catch share implementation.
  • Obtaining and analyzing data for this period was feasible for many indicators.
  • It is a significant date from a fishery management perspective because the Congressional moratorium on new Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) programs ended in 2002, setting the stage for establishment of the Northeast Multispecies Sector and West Coast Shorebased IFQ Programs.

Discussion of ITQs in the fishery management councils took place as early as 1994 for the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery, before Congressional action of the program was stopped by Congressional action. The first sector program in New England was proposed in 2003 and implemented in 2004; ITQs were discussed in council scoping in 2006, with the full Northeast Multispecies Sector Program being implemented in 2010. However, opposition to any type of quota share program had entered the conversation by the early 1990s and contributed to the 1996 Congressional moratorium on adoption of any new ITQ programs; the moratorium was in place until 2002. Therefore, the baseline period covers the time prior to either program and includes the period when catch share programs were under consideration in the Northeast.

From social and economic perspectives, the period of 2002 to 2010 is a reasonable baseline that captures pre-catch share program behavior, although for some metrics, such as number of active vessels, landings, and ex-vessel prices, we also consider earlier data, where available, to better identify trends. For the ecological indicators, 2002 to 2010 is a good reference period for most analyses. Where longer-term data are available, such as in stock assessments, we also examine longer-term trends and provide that additional context in a graphic depicting the extended baseline.

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