NOAA 98-R127

Contact:  Carol Tocco              For Immediate Release:
          Gordon Helm              5/27/98


Federal agency provides financing for halibut and sablefish quota shares

For the first time in the three-year history of Individual Fishing Quota management, entry level fishermen and fishermen on small boats will be able to qualify for federal financial help in buying quota share in the halibut and sablefish fisheries off Alaska. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service today announced the new loan program for financing or refinancing the purchase cost of quota share in these fisheries through long-term, fixed rate loans.

In the past, it has been difficult for crew members and beginning fishermen to purchase quota share because only vessel owners received quota share under the management plan. The new loan program will provide fishermen who did not initially receive quota share and small boat fisherman who wish to purchase additional quota share with the opportunity to purchase a greater stake in these fisheries.

Quota share (QS) is the term for the transferable fisheries permits which harvesters own in the sablefish and halibut fisheries. Individual fishing quota (IFQ) is the amount of harvestable fish annually allocated to each permit holder. The IFQ management program has succeeded in extending the fishing season from a few days to almost eight months, which has helped to improve occupational safety and product quality in these fisheries.

Eligible fishermen may submit loan applications during a two-week open season. The open season will begin two weeks after today's publication of a Federal Register notice. Applicants are required to complete a short application form obtained from the fisheries service and submit it only by U.S. mail. The application period opens June 10, 1998, and closes June 24, 1998. Applications with the earliest postmarks will have the best chance of receiving loans because of limited funds.

The law defines an entry-level fisherman as a fisherman who:

does not currently hold any quota share in the halibut and sablefish fisheries,

The law also defines a fisherman who fishes from a small vessel as a fisherman who:

wishes to purchase catcher vessel quota share,

The loan program is authorized under the 1996 Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Federal Credit Reform Act of 1992 requires that the subsidy cost for federal loan programs be appropriated by Congress annually. Congress appropriated $100,000 to fund the subsidy cost of fiscal year 1998 loans. This will support loans totaling about $5 million for fiscal year 1998. The future subsidy cost of QS purchase loans in these two fisheries will be funded by a percentage of revenues from an individual fishing quota fee that is to be implemented in these fisheries.

Interested applicants should contact: NMFS Financial Services Branch, 7600 Sand Point Way, NE, BIN C15700, Building 1, Seattle, Washington 98115, phone: 206-526-6122; fax: 206-536-6306.