In the News

Update from Downeast on Fish Banks

The New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) voted unanimously to forward Amendment 17 of the groundfish management plan to NMFS for approval and implementation. Amendment 17 establishes the state-controlled permit banks that have been set up with funds from the federal government. These banks are focused on helping small-scale fishermen compete in the new world of sectors and hard quotas and Talking Fish wishes them well. There was significant negative testimony against Amendment 17 submitted by groups predominantly representing the larger trip vessels based on fears that these government-funded banks were competing with the private quota banks in the quota marketplace and could drive quota prices up out of reach. It is extremely ironic that many of these big trip boats have had no problem asking for or using federal funds for buy-out programs in the past or for vessel construction and modernization programs that they benefited from but now feel the need to object to a small federal program when the beneficiaries would be day boat fishermen.

New Hampshire fisherman and Council member, David Goethel, raised concerns that there wasn’t enough transparency around the operations of these state banks and how they would use other non-federal funds that they might be able to secure. These are legitimate concerns and Talking Fish supports the requirement in the Council vote that the state-controlled banks report back to the Council on a regular basis. The Council retains full authority over the fishery and can readily correct any untoward behavior by an individual state trying to monopolize the fishery through the banking mechanism.  Amendment 17 isn’t going to be the last word on quota banks; it’s just the beginning. This new tool should continue to be regarded with healthy skepticism like any new initiative in this fishery.


7 Responses to Update from Downeast on Fish Banks

  • Edna Incesta says:

    A notably poor analysis. Benefits to any particular vessel class is not the issue, it’s a philosophical concern about government competing for scarce resources. In fact, if larger vessels are “better capitalized” as is claimed, then the groups supposedly representing large trip vessels are actually looking out for their smaller, less capitalized brethren by objecting to a new competitor for fishing rights which obtains its capital by simply printing it.

    The examples of past use of federal funds offered potential benefits to the entire fleet, not just one class of vessels.

    The objectors also presented concerns over the legality of the amendment. Here the Conservation Law Foundation offers no rebuttal of those arguments, just another cheap shot designed to splinter the industry.

    • Peter Shelley says:

      We are not trying to promote class warfare in the fisheries. The larger boats in the New England fishery are very successful and we hope that the new sector programs will allow them to become even more successful. Federally-supported buyout programs (particularly the second one that was targeted specifically at larger, higher fishing power vessels) and the federal fishing vessel upgrade and construction programs were used heavily by large boat owners.

      Also, it is simply a fact that some of the groups challenging the state quota banks take a different position when the federal funding benefits them. For example, Associated Fisheries of Maine has been one of the main proponents of another $100 million federal buyout of fishing boats and permits. Doesn’t it strike anyone else as strange to protest the supposed market distortions from a tiny $6 million federal small boat program while lobbying for a $100 million taxpayer program to remove competitors and surplus fishing boats from that same marketplace?

      As far as our opinion of the legal analysis that state quota bank opponents have submitted, we think it is wrong.

      At the end of the day, twenty percent of the boats in New England catch roughly 80% of the groundfish, a ratio that has held roughly true for decades. Without taking anything away from the market dominance that these large operations have achieved, some of us support state programs to help small, coastal day boats stay in business and to provide fish quota to kids getting out of high school who want to go fishing without forcing these folks to bid against a multi-million dollar operation for the privilege. Since this is a public resource, we think that is a rather modest proposal.

  • Maggie Raymond says:

    Associated Fisheries of Maine has advocated for an INDUSTRY FUNDED buyout, NOT a taxpayer funded buyout. See this from the article you cite: “At this point, Raymond said, the group estimates that a buyout would require a loan of up to $100 million, which the industry as a whole would pay back through a fee on landings from trips made on the days-at-sea system.”
    An industry funded buyout would provide a humane exit from the fishery for those who wish to take it, and would immediately increase the annual catch entitlement of those who remain, without significant down payment or collateral required by traditional lenders. The repayment system would be based on landings, and therefore the largest vessels would re-pay the majority of the loan.
    You have, not surprisingly, mischaracterized the position of Associated Fisheries of Maine with respect to Amendment 17. We argue that a thorough analysis of impacts is required by several laws. Such an analysis would document that the permit banks are actually meeting the purported goals and objectives, would detail the market distortions that have occurred and will continue as permit banks compete with small scale fishermen in the permit market place, and would describe the negative impacts on those individuals and fishing communities prohibited from participating in the subsidy. NOAA’s response was to say that the NE Council could provide that analysis if they chose to do so, but the NE Council did not make that choice.
    One “small boat” fisherman testified as follows at the January meeting of the NE Council, but his words fell on deaf ears:
    “I look at the permit banks as the great threat that is going to keep someone like me from getting back into the groundfish fishery. If you dump all this money into the market, small fishermen are going to get priced out immediately. You are creating the entity we all feared at the start of this process. You are creating the corporate giant that is going to crush the small fisherman. The government, in its attempts to help the small fisherman, is going to kill the small fisherman. I can’t compete with that kind of money.”
    You claim we are “wrong” in requesting analysis, but imagine for a moment this scenario: NOAA prohibits States from providing permit bank opportunities to vessels under 80 feet. CLF would demand the same analysis that was asked for by Associated Fisheries of Maine (and others).

    • Peter Shelley says:

      We understand that AFM has been promoting a 30-year, $100 million low-cost or perhaps no-cost federal loan for a buyout program. By most definitions, that is a federally-funded program.

      As far as buyouts are concerned, CLF took no stance on the first, and we supported the second with conditions. CLF is not opposed to buyouts, but they have to be designed very carefully to produce meaningful benefits. Since fishermen can now lease out their quota, even if it is a small amount, the sector program should give fishermen who want to stay active a return on this quota without having to exit the fishery. For those who want to leave, the permit banking program achieves a market rate return, potentially a higher price than a buyout auction.

      As far as AFM’s position on Amendment 17, we don’t recall AFM taking a similar process-heavy position on either of the historic buyout programs, on the buyout program that it is currently proposing, or more directly on the private permit banks that have been set up, even though the capital value of those programs is many times the proposed capitalization of the state permit banks. The fact that the private banks have to form as sectors does not require anywhere near the level of analysis that AFM is demanding for Amendment 17. Finally, at this stage, there isn’t data to allow fine scale analysis of state banks at present, and the law does not require speculative analysis. In any event, these state banks are not the “corporate giant” that you fear and, as government entities, are fully accountable to local fishermen.

  • Doug Maxfield says:

    “some of us support state programs to help small, coastal day boats stay in business and to provide fish quota to kids getting out of high school who want to go fishing without forcing these folks to bid against a multi-million dollar operation for the privilege”

    Kids getting out of high school, huh? Are you cracked? Have you been paying attention to anything that has taken place in the last ten years? What about the people who have worked their whole lives in an industry that they will never get a shot at? Why is CLF all the sudden such a champion of the little guy? For years you have supported regulations that crushed the owner/operated day boat fishery despite increases in biomass. Now your painting yourselves as being sincerely concerned about the welfare of the day-boats and the communities that they support. What is CLF’s angle? I’m willing to bet that you will somehow turn this bs agenda into more money from PEW.

    • Talking Fish says:

      We appreciate your thoughts and will continue to post your points of view, which have to this point abided by our comment policy, but we ask that you refrain from things like calling us “cracked,” or we will not be able to continue to approve your comments (in accordance with that policy).

      For the record, CLF has submitted strong comments in the council process and at the NMFS level with respect to the “little guy” in the record of every major amendment since 1996. We also took a strong position in the Amendment 13 court proceedings to reverse a court order that would have had devastating effects on smaller fishermen. CLF also made a major investment for a number of years in the creation and support of NAMA, a group that has persistently declared its interest in the “little guys,” pushing forward a fleet visioning process. We support a diverse fleet with thriving operations across the spectrum of fishing platforms.

  • muddog says:

    Sectors/catch shares, ITQ’s, IFQ’s LAPPS, TURFS, crab ratz is about fish commodities-turning public resources into private ownership of fish forever.

    Why do fishermen need $$$ & debt to fish?

Talking Fish reserves the right to remove any comment that contains personal attacks or inappropriate, offensive, or threatening language. For more information, see our comment policy.

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