Policy Brief

Overcoming Three Hurdles to IFQs in US Fisheries


For decades, U.S. federal fisheries policy has relied on direct regulations to prevent overfishing. Such an approach has not eliminated overfishing, nor has it prevented the enormous waste and hazards of fishing under a destructive race for fish. The good news is that there is a better way to manage our ocean fisheries. Individual fishing quotas (IFQs), also called individual transferable quotas (ITQs), have proven effective in restoring health and sanity in a host of fisheries around the globe.

In spite of these successes, there are a number of obstacles to IFQ implementation. To begin to address these, PERC, Reason Foundation, and Environmental Defense held a luncheon briefing on Capitol Hill on November 12, 2003, for federal policy makers and their staffs. The briefing, titled “Overcoming Hurdles to Implementing Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs) in U.S. Fisheries,” was well-attended and opening remarks were made by Congressman Wayne Gilchrist (R-MD), who plans to introduce legislation re-authorizing the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management Act. Mr. Gilchrist assured everyone in attendance that fishery management legislation needs to be “as reasonable, as pragmatic as possible,” and needless to say, more effective than in the past.

The following discussion, based on the November 12 briefing, describes the problems in U.S. fisheries, the potential role of IFQs, and the three most contentious issues surrounding their implementation. These are the questions of whether a two-tiered system that includes both IFQs and individual processor quotas (IPQs) is needed, what restrictions, if any, to place on IFQs, and whether or not to place a sunset provision on IFQs.

Support for the briefing and this booklet is provided by the Alex C. Walker Educational & Charitable Foundation, the Bradley Fund for the Environment, and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. It is produced by Dianna Rienhart and is available in hard copy from PERC, Reason Foundation, or Environmental Defense or online at www.ifqsforfisheries.org.


Michael De Alessi is the director of natural resource policy at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. His research focuses on developing private solutions to water, marine conservation, and wildlife issues.

De Alessi is author of the book Fishing for Solutions (Institute of Economic Affairs, 1998) and is co-editor of the book Marine Resources: Property Rights, Economics and Environment (Elsevier, 2002).

De Alessi, who has testified before numerous legislative bodies, including the National Governors Association, has been published in New Scientist, The Washington Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Journal of Commerce, International Herald Tribune, The Wall Street Journal Europe, and numerous other publications.

De Alessi's previous experience includes serving as director of the Center for Private Conservation at the Competitive Enterprise Institute from 1998 to 2001.

De Alessi holds a received an M.S. in Engineering Economic Systems and a B.A. in Economics Stanford University. He also earned an M.A. in Marine Policy from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami.