Wednesday, September 7, 2011

AFS - Wednesday, September 7 - Permit Banks and New England Fishermen

"Catch shares" fisheries management includes Limited Access Priviledge Programs (LAPP) and individual quota programs that allocate a secure amount of fish to individuals, cooperatives, or communities. Catch shares allow fishermen to fish, sell, or trade their quota whenever they want in a given year. This theoretically allows fishermen more flexibility in their operations, reduces a "race" to catch fish (often dangerous), and allows them to time their catch according to market fluctuations in order to maximize their profits. Catch share management is expanding to new fisheries every year as it has become a popular choice among managers for achieving more efficient, safe, and productive sustainable fisheries. However, these programs are extremely controversial and the strengths and weaknesses of catch shares are hotly contested. At the very least, catch share management represents a dramatic change in fisheries management that challenges fishermen to adapt. Today, at the AFS meeting, 28 talks were given on catch share programs, outlining their sucesses and failures.

Among the problems associated with catch share programs is that it tends to promote consolidation of the fishing fleet into the larger boats, as smaller day boats have a more difficult time turning a profit in the new system. The reasons for this are many and they are complex. One approach to addressing this problem is through establishing permit banks, which are a collection of fishing permits that can be held by a private or governement entity. Today, Michael Pentony from NOAA presented the current permit bank program that allows Northeastern states to hold a permit bank. Six million dollars were given to these states to establish permit banks; 3 million to Maine, and 1 million each to Massachussetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. This money is intended to be used to purchase fishing permits that will provide quota that can then be leased out to fishermen at a reduced cost. Theoretically, this will prevent consolidation by providing more fish quota to smaller boats. Maine has already bought permits and sold quota to fishermen, while NH, MA, and RI are still organizing their programs. But will this help smaller boats compete with larger boats that can have higher fish allocations and more resources for purchasing quota? Only time will tell.

For more information on Catch shares, visit

-Erik Chapman

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