FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stephanie Dorezas
The Commerce Department today announced that during May, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service will be looking for advice on how best to spend up to $10 million in federal funds to retire federal fishing permits to harvest groundfish such as cod, yellowtail flounder and haddock in the Northeast. These species are under a rebuilding plan.
"The proposed program would provide an opportunity for fishermen to voluntarily retire their limited access groundfish permits, receive compensation for doing so, and at the same time contribute to the rebuilding of this historically important fishery," said Bill Hogarth, acting director of NOAA fisheries. "I encourage the public to comment on the proposal to ensure that the final program best meets the needs of the fishery."
A major feature of the fishery rebuilding plan limits the number of days fishermen are allowed to harvest groundfish. This averages 88 days for most fishermen. Since fishing days were first restricted in 1994, many fishermen have decided to fish for other species, but still hold a groundfish permit. Officials believe the permit retirement program will be most attractive to those who use few, if any, of their allocated fishing days.
The proposal will be discussed at public meetings in northeastern fishing communities during May. The actual number of permits retired would depend on how many bids come in and their value. Written comments will be accepted by NOAA fisheries through May 25th.
Since 1994 nearly $100 million in federal funds have been used to mitigate the overall economic effects of depleted groundfish stocks in the Northeast. Of that, nearly $25 million was used to compensate fishermen who reduced some excess fishing capacity. Unlike the previous fishery buy-out programs in the Northeast, this one would not remove vessels from the fleet. Rather, it would remove only limited access groundfish permits. Participants may continue to fish for other species for which they have permits.
The New England Fishery Management Council, responsible for devising fishery management plans in the region's federal waters, is also considering ways to further address latent effort. Recently, their Ad-Hoc Capacity Committee issued a final report on their year-long deliberations. Actions by the council will likely be a part of the next major plan revision, scheduled for 2002.
Public meetings to discuss this proposal will be held in nine communities in six states, beginning in Gloucester, Mass., on May 8 and ending in Narragansett, R.I., on May 17. Written comments on the proposal should be mailed to: National Marine Fisheries Service, 1 Blackburn Drive, Gloucester, MA 01930, ATTN: Jack Terrill.