NOAA 99-13
Contact: Stephanie Dorezas


NOAA's Fisheries Service is proposing guidelines for future government-backed buyouts of fishing vessels and permits to reduce excess fishing capacity, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today.

"As is the case around the world, many U.S. fisheries have too many fishing vessels chasing too few fish," said Terry Garcia, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator. "We are creating general guidelines that will allow the U.S. fishing industry to voluntarily set an example of reducing excess fishing capacity in our waters. Reducing extra fishing capacity increases earnings, simplifies management, and improves conservation efforts."

Congress amended the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1996 to provide for voluntary fishing capacity reduction -- commonly known as a "buyout." The proposed rule addresses matters common to all buyouts, but each future buyout requires a separate implementation rule addressing the specific needs of a fishery and its participants.

The decision to participate in a buyout is voluntary. Most buyouts will be carried out through reverse auctions where the objective will be to remove the greatest capacity with the fewest dollars. A buyout pays fishermen to surrender their fishing permits and/or withdraw their vessels from fishing. A vessel withdrawal involves either scrapping the vessel or imposing title restrictions that permanently prevent the vessel from being used for fishing. All or some portion of buyout costs can be funded by loans, federally appropriated funds or other contributed funds.

"The most revolutionary aspect of these buyout provisions is that fishermen can design their own buyout program and borrow money from the Fisheries Service to pay for it," said Michael Grable, Financial Services Division chief for NOAA's Fisheries Service. "Before a buyout loan can be approved, two-thirds of the vessel or permit holders in the affected fishery voting in the referendum must agree to pay back the loan through landings fees."

Buyouts can occur only in fisheries that prevent additional fishermen from entering them. Each buyout must prevent or end overfishing, rebuild stocks of fish, or achieve measurable and significant improvements in the conservation and management of the buyout fishery. Buyouts must be consistent with federal or state fishery management plans or programs. Buyouts require restricting vessel upgrades and other measures that prevent replacing the fishing capacity that a buyout reduces. They also require adequate catch control measures in the buyout fishery. All buyouts must be cost effective, and those involving loans must be capable of repaying them.

Comments on the proposed rule must be received by April 12, 1999. Comments should be sent to Michael L. Grable, Chief, Financial Services Division, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910. A
fact sheet and a link to the proposed rule are available on the Sustainable Fisheries Act home page at