NOAA 2002-AK1217
Contact: Sheela McLean
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Public Comment Sought on Proposed Buyback

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is seeking public comment on a proposal for a $100 million buyback program for crab fishermen participating in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands King and Tanner Crab Fishery. The buyback would be financed by a loan to be repaid over 30 years by catch landing fees of crab fishermen who remain in the fishery. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an agency of the Commerce Department.

“The buyback can, without cost to taxpayers, reduce this fishery’s harvesting effort to a level more consistent with its total allowable catches,” said Bill Hogarth, NOAA Fisheries director. “This buyback is not a grant program, but rather a loan program that can help everyone, including fishery managers.”

The proposal would pay fishermen for withdrawing their vessels from fishing, and surrendering their fishing licenses and fishing histories. The withdrawn fishing vessels may never fish again anywhere in the world, either recreationally or commercially. NOAA Fisheries would finance the buyback’s cost with a loan of up to $100 million, and fishermen who continue to participate in the crab fisheries will repay the $100 million. Post-buyback crab landing fees, from those still participating in the fishery, would repay the loan over a 30-year period. Between 1990 and 1999, the fishery’s long term averaged landings worth about $240 million annually.

The proposed program will solicit buyback bids from crab harvesters in the fishery. NOAA Fisheries would review the bidder’s crab production and state the bid price as a percentage of the bidder’s crab production. NOAA Fisheries would then accept the lowest percentage bids until they totaled $100 million. Using this process, the most productive vessels offered by fishermen would be selected first, maximizing capacity reduction for the funds available. NOAA Fisheries would then conduct a permit-holders referendum about the loan-repayment landing fee and would conclude the buyback only if two-thirds of voting permit holders approved the landing fee.

The buyback would apply to the holders of approximately 335 federal fishing licenses issued for the Aleutian Islands brown king and red king crab, Bristol Bay red king crab, snow crab (C. opilio), Tanner crab (C. bairdi), Pribilof Islands red and blue king crab, and St. Matthew blue king crab fisheries. NOAA Fisheries issued these limited access licenses under the crab license limitation program. The buyback does not apply to crab licenses endorsed solely for Norton Sound red king crab.

The proposed rule will be open for public comment until Jan. 27, 2003. Please mail written comments to Michael L. Grable, Chief, Financial Services Division, NMFS, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3282. Comments may also be faxed to Michael L. Grable at (301) 713-1306. The agency does not accept comments sent via the Internet.

NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is dedicated to protecting and preserving our nation’s living marine resources through scientific research, management, enforcement, and the conservation of marine mammals and other protected marine species and their habitat.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

The buyback proposed rule is on the Internet at:

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