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CFN ITQ Columns

Time to Plan for ITQs

ITQs: Initial Allocation

ITQs & High-Grading

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Stock Stewardship - Beyond IFQs

Introduction to Stock Stewardship Shares

Area 2 Lobster

Fishery Collapse Booklet


The Lobster Fishery

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Overfishing Defined

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    Halibut IFQ


IFQ Program Summary Sheet No. 1




Program Adopted in 1995


Statistical Summary of IFQ Experience


When Program First Implemented

Latest Year of Record


62,080,394 lbs. (1994)

79,298,783 lbs. (1999)


$93,388,166 (1994)

$125,599,790 (1999)

Number of Vessel Owners


5,484 (1994)


4,947 (1997)


Special Circumstances

  • Derby situation- In 1975 the season length for the halibut fishery was around 125 days.  In 1980 it was roughly 25 days, and by 1994 it had dropped to 2-3 days in some areas.  This extreme “race to fish” greatly reduced product quality and vessel safety.  Today the season length for halibut and sablefish is 245 days. 
  • CDQ program- One objective of the halibut ITQ program was to help develop rural coastal communities.  A portion of several regional TACs was awarded to rural communities as Community Development Quota (CDQ) to keep the benefits of the fishery in the local area.
  • Social engineering – The IFQ program for North Pacific Sablefish and Halibut incorporates many elements that are intended to avoid disruptive changes in the composition of the fishing fleet and to maintain a broad distribution of quota shares among people who are actively involved in the fishery.  A description of the program can be found at .


Statements of Individuals Involved in the IFQ Program


Fishery Participant:  Linda Behnken, commercial fisherman

I have been commercial fishing since 1982 and did not receive an initial allocation of IFQs, but have purchased both sablefish and halibut shares.  Personally, IFQs have worked well for me, but other deckhands or vessel owners have not been so lucky.  IFQs have had some significant conservation benefits, they have improved safety, and allowed more product to be marked fresh.  My biggest concern with IFQ programs is long term; will measures written into programs initially designed to protect small boat fishermen be eliminated over time.  I would like to see Congress require all future IFQ programs live up to conservation and socioeconomic standards as assessed through periodic performance reviews.


Fishery Participant:  Dan Flavey, commercial fisherman 

You can get mixed results from ITQs, but life in the halibut fishery is better under this system.  For those that have remained in the fishery it has been a real benefit; it is almost as if fishing is back to the way it was when I first started fishing.  Some elements of our program could have been better.  The most important thing is to have a rigid program; you can always make the rules more liberal later.  The halibut ITQ program is probably the most restrictive ITQ program in the world, and it works.  By having more restrictions like requiring quota owners to be onboard, more power has remained with the fishermen, and stewardship benefits for the resource and the vessels are happening.  Considering the impacts on the crew is a very important element our program could have spent more time on.  Some crew shares have been cut to cover the costs of quota shares, but the good crewmembers have more stable, full-time jobs.  Probably the most ironic outcome of our program in the South East region is that since ITQs have been implemented, the total allowable catch (TAC) has dropped by 40%, and fishermen are the ones that pushed for this cut in quota.  Most fishermen will now support cuts in quota because they feel guaranteed that in the future, when the stocks recover, they (the fishermen) would be the ones to benefit.


Fishery Researcher:  Gunnar Knapp, Professor of Economics, University of Alaska 

The IFQ program has dramatically changed the Alaska halibut fishery.  For most of the decade prior to 1995, thousands of boats caught the entire Alaska halibut quota in two or three 24-hour openings.  With IFQ management, the halibut season is now open from March until November.  Average crew sizes have declined.  With a longer season, the share of Alaska halibut sold fresh has more than doubled, and ex-vessel and wholesale prices have increased.  Coast Guard Search and Rescue cases and fatalities associated with the halibut fishery have declined sharply.


Short Biography for Individuals that Gave Comments


Linda Behnken has been commercial fishing since 1982 deckhanding on longliners, and bought her own boat in 1992.  She has been the director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association since 1991 and was a member of the Alaska Fishery Management Council from 1992-2001.

Email address:

Dan Flavey owns a small boat in SE Alaska and has been fishing halibut and sablefish for seventeen years.  He was very involved in the Council process that developed and designed the Halibut and Sablefish ITQ program.

Email address:

Gunnar Knapp is a professor of economics with the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska at Anchorage.  He has conducted a variety of surveys concerning different aspects of the Alaska halibut IFQ program.

Email address:


  • Behnken, L. 2001. Testimony before Congress on the Magnuson-Stevens Act and the future implementation of IFQ programs.
  • Buck, Eugene H. 1995. “Individual Transferable Quotas in Fishery Management,” A Report for Congress by the Congressional Research Service. Available at:
  • Iudicello, S et al. 1999. Fish, Markets, and Fishermen: The Economics of Overfishing. Island Press.
  • Knapp, Gunnar. 1997.  “Initial Effects of the Alaska Halibut IFQ Program: Survey Comments of Alaska Fishermen.”  Marine Resource Economics, Volume 12 Number 3, Fall 1997.
  • Dinneford, E., K. Iverson, B. Muse, and K. Schelle. 1999.  “Changes Under Alaska’s Halibut IFQ Program, 1995-1998.”  A Report Published by the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission.
  • National Research Council, 1999. Sharing the Fish, Toward a National Policy on IFQs. National Academy of Sciences, USA.
  • NMFS Annual Commercial Landings Statistics Website,
  • Pautzke, Clarence G. & Chris W. Oliver.  “Development of the Individual Fishing Quota Program for Sablefish and Halibut Longline Fisheries off Alaska.” Available on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council web site at:

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