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Overfishing Opponent Wins Environmental Prize

FILE - Then U.S. Under-Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere Jane Lubchenco addresses reporters as she attends the opening session of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, ICCAT, an inter-governmental fishery orga

A supporter of a controversial way to prevent overfishing has won a major environmental prize.

Jane Lubchenco backed programs known as catch shares when she headed the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from 2009 to 2013.

Catch shares set a maximum amount of fish that can be caught in a region, then divide the allowed catch among fishermen.

These programs are credited with restoring several fish populations in the United States.

“From 2000 to 2013, we went from having 92 overfished stocks to 40 and we went from having 0 rebuilt stocks to 34,” Lubchenco said. “It gives us incredible hope that we can replicate those successes elsewhere and really end overfishing at the global scale.”

Proponents say the programs stop a “race to the bottom,” where fishermen try to catch as much as possible without regard for the future of the fishery. With catch shares, fishermen's takes increase as the fishery recovers and grows.

However, critics say these programs can drive small fishermen out of the market and raise barriers to people just getting started in the industry.

Seventeen U.S. fisheries are in catch shares programs, and more are in development.

Lubchenco will share the $200,000 Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement with Madhav Gadgil of India’s Goa University, who drew praise for engaging local communities in environmental protection.