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Industry Restructuring Overview

Fisheries have changed dramatically since the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act was first enacted in 1976. Once seen as underutilized, underdeveloped, and full of untapped potential, most fisheries are now thought to be operating beyond maximum capacity. This has reduced their ability to provide benefits to fishermen and to the nation, caused many stocks to be fished unsustainably, and created uncertainty about the future of marine fisheries.

The need to bring fishing capacity back down to profitable and sustainable levels is now more widely recognized. But restructuring the fishing industry is a painful and difficult process--much easier in theory than in practice. The different economic, social, biological, and political contexts of each fishery make it important to understand the pros and cons of various restructuring tools and their applicability under various conditions. That discussion begins here.

Other Resources

Congressional Research Service Reports Legislation National Marine Fisheries Service Reports National Research Council Reports U.S. General Accounting Office Reports

Topic Overviews:

Fishing Capacity
A level of catching power above and beyond what is needed to catch available fishery resources is one of the most serious problems in U.S. fisheries management today.

Buyback Programs
Several U.S. fisheries have turned to buyback programs to reduce fishing capacity. Successful buyback programs improve resource conservation, increase the profitability of the fishery, and provide financial relief to those who are ready to leave the business.

Market-Based Management Tools
Market-based management tools rely on the market, rather than regulatory intervention, to regulate fishing capacity. The most common of these tools, the Individual Fishing Quota, was applied in several U.S. fisheries before being banned by the Congress in 1996.

Federal Disaster Relief Assistance
Disaster relief assistance has been used in the past to help fund capacity reduction initiatives and to provide economic relief to affected participants.

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