United States Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Crab Rationalization Program
The unique three-pie approach defines and assigns different types of privileges to vessel owners, crew and processor communities. An industry-funded, government-operated loan program assists new entrants and crew.
Popularized by the Discovery Channel show, The Deadliest Catch, this fishery designed a rights-based management program to improve safety for fishermen, lengthen seasons and support historic fishing communities.
The Bering Sea and Aleutian Island crab fishery began in the 1950s. Although highly lucrative, the fishery has long been characterized by poor weather, fluctuating stock abundance and unsafe conditions. In the 1990s, the high competition for fish resulted in overcapitalization and a race for fish, causing managers to restrict entry to the fishery and place limits on season length. The short seasons forced fishermen to operate in dangerous weather, and the fishery became one of the deadliest in the United States. Many have seen this firsthand on the Discovery Channel show, The Deadliest Catch.
Fishery managers identified rights-based management as the best solution to address biological and economic issues while maintaining community participation. In 2005, managers implemented the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Crab Rationalization Program to manage five species of crab. According to the North Pacific Marine Fishery Council’s comprehensive review, the program is meeting its goals, and findings have been used to design additional improvements to the program.