Program To Reduce
Number of Groundfish
NMFS Northeast Region
N E W SGloucester, Mass -- NOAA Fisheries is accepting bids from Northeast U.S. commercial fishermen who are willing to give up their federal limited-access groundfish permit for cash. Letters explaining the bidding process have been mailed to all permit holders, and bids will be accepted until Feb. 19, 2002.
This is the second buy-out of its kind in the region, but on a more limited scale, and only affects permits.
“The buy-out program is strictly voluntary,” said Jack Terrill, administrator of the program. “All limited-access groundfish permit holders are eligible to submit a bid.”
Details on the program and the application process can be viewed on the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional Office Web site.
This new program aims to reduce the number of groundfish limited-access permits, most likely those that have little or no history of groundfish landings. This prevents vessels with those permits from increasing groundfish harvests in the future as these stocks rebuild.
All permits specify a number of days that can be spent at sea harvesting groundfish. Nearly two-thirds of the fleet can fish for 88 days; roughly another third can fish for more than 88 days - the average is 130 days - based on their fishing histories. In 2000, about 36% of the days that could have been fished were used by the permit holders. The remaining, unused days would be considered latent effort. Since 1997, the use of days has shown small increases annually, both across the fishing fleet and among vessels that spent some time pursuing groundfish.
From 1996 to 1998, a federal buy-out program worth $25 million removed 79 of the most proficient vessels from the groundfish, or multispecies, fishery and permanently retired 463 other permits held by those vessels. After determining that the fishing capacity of remaining permit holders still out-paced the stock’s ability to sustain itself, Congress appropriated an additional $10 million to further reduce the number of groundfish limited-access permits.
“Unlike the last buy-out program, this one will require surrender of the groundfish permit only,” Terrill said. “It does not involve giving up a vessel or other valid state and federal fishing permits.”
The government will retire groundfish permits attained through the buy-out program, and fishermen who take buy-out offers will not be able to use groundfishing histories to qualify for subsequent federal groundfish permits.
To rank bids, NOAA Fisheries has adopted a competitive system that will weight bids using the operation’s potential capacity for harvesting groundfish. Bids that allow the government to purchase the greatest fishing capacity for the least cost per unit of capacity will be the most successful.
“Since participation is voluntary, we really don’t know ahead of time how many permits will be removed through the program, or what the average payout will be,” Terrill said. “The system includes a way for us to cap acceptable scores.”
NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living marine resources through research, management, and enforcement; and the conservation of protected marine species and their habitat. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries, please visit the NOAA Fisheries website.