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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.


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