Proceedings of the Third World Fisheries Congress: Feeding the World with Fish in the Next Millenium—The Balance between Production and Environment

Application of Total Allowable Catch and Individual Transferable Quota Approaches to Chinese Fisheries Management

Jianye Tang, Shuolin Huang


For controlling excess fishing effort and for conserving, managing, and utilizing the fishery resources within their jurisdictions, many coastal countries have introduced output control measures rather than the traditional input control measures (Huang 1999). Along with the development of fishery resources investigation, output control measures have spread rapidly in world fisheries management. These approaches include total allowable catches (TACs), individual quotas (IQs), individual transferable quotas (ITQs), and vessel catch limits (Morgan 1997a). Among these approaches, ITQs are increasingly common in fisheries management.

A TAC is a maximum total catch for certain species in a specific area for a given season or period. It attempts to directly restrict the total catch of the active fishing fleet. Catches or landings are monitored, and when the actual or estimated catch reaches the maximum, the fishery is closed for the season, usually a year. In principle, a TAC offers the potential to provide good resource conservation. To the extent that a TAC is properly set and followed, the measure can control fishing mortality directly by placing a ceiling on catch.

To avoid the increased fishing effort and competition that can result from a TAC approach, the total catch is divided into IQs, which are distributed to fishing units, fishers, or fishing boats. When an individual IQ holder catches its quota, it is no longer allowed to fish during the season. Under an ITQ system, the IQ is property that may be traded and exchanged in ways similar to other property. The exchange may involve a transfer of the quota share or the annual catch rights. In the market, quotas are held by fishers who have better economic benefit, which will increase the scale of fishing boats and the pattern of fishing will self-adjust.

At present, ITQ is adopted mainly in developed countries, namely, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States (Table 1) (Francis et al. 1993). Among these countries, New Zealand is recognized as the most successful.

In 1977, the government of New Zealand announced the creation and implementation of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and adopted TACs in fisheries management; in 1986, ITQs were introduced. As of 2000, ITQs had been applied to 32 species in New Zealand, and all quotas were annual (April 1 to March 31 for rock lobsters and October 1 to September 30 for other species). Such a procedure was followed to conclude the TAC (Sissenwine and Mace 1992).

First, a group for assessing the fisheries resources was formed by the scientists selected by the government and representatives from the fisheries industry, environmental protection groups, and entertainment fishery. This group evaluated the status of the fisheries resources publicly and presented to the government its recommendations on the TAC amount, which would be discussed by the fishery committee. Finally, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forest, and Fisheries determined the TAC.

After the TAC was confirmed, the allocation rate was determined according to catches of the previous three years. Then, the TAC was divided into IQs and allotted to fishers, initially set in tons. If the TAC increases, the government has the right to sell the excess quotas, and if the TAC decreases, the government compensates quota owners. In 1990, the New Zealand government paid NZ$69 million to reduce the quotas. Since then, IQs have been set as a percentage of the TAC that has been prescribed in New Zealand fisheries regulation.