Alaska moves to expand permit access for young fishermen

Submitted by Jan Standaert

Written by Laine Welch April 24, 2017

Numerous studies over the past decade have highlighted Alaska’s “graying of the fleet” (the average age of permit holders is 50), and the lack of opportunities for younger people to launch a career in commercial fishing.

State data show that between 1975 and 2014, more than 2,300 limited entry permits (nearly 28 percent) migrated away from Alaska’s rural fishing communities to non-residents.

A new measure gaining steam in the Alaska legislature aims to reverse that trend by creating fisheries trusts in which communities could buy permits and lease them to fishermen who otherwise could not afford them.

“It’s good to recognize the problem, but it’s even better to try and do something about it,” said Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka) sponsor of the legislation (HB 188).

Under the plan, regional trusts could buy or be gifted a maximum of 2.5 percent of the permits in any given fishery, and lease them for up to six years to fishermen who want to make the transition from deckhand to permit owners. The fishermen must then buy their own permits if they choose to continue in a fishery. The trusts would apply to all limited entry fisheries in Alaska.

At the outset, the trusts would be authorized in up to three Alaska regions that choose to opt in, and must be approved by two-thirds of any municipality. Board members would be recommended by cities and boroughs in each region and appointed by the governor. Unincorporated communities may also be included on the board.

“Just as people often rent before buying a house, fisheries trusts offer an opportunity to run a boat and gain experience before making the six-figure decision to finance a permit and become an independent small business owner,” Kreiss-Tomkins said.

Interested stakeholders, which include Alaska Native groups, state agencies and fishing organizations from Southeast to Nome, have spent more than two and a half years developing the idea.

“We are continuing to craft and refine the model in terms of legality and policy,” Kreiss-Tomkins said, adding that the level of interest is very region specific.

“Some are very bullish about the opportunity, some are not. That’s totally fine,” he said. “We expect some will watch and see how it goes, and then make a decision once they have more information.”

The measure is scheduled for hearings during the current extended legislative session although it is not expected to be put to a vote.

“We are taking it slow and steady,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “In the interim, we are hoping to grow the conversation with fishing communities, economic development advocates and other stakeholders who would benefit from this tool in their tool box. Then we will be ready to revisit it next year.”

Young Unveils Young Fishermen's Development Act

Washington, D.C.  –  Alaska Congressman Don Young, a longtime leader in national fisheries policy and legislation, this week unveiled his newest bill –  H.R. 2079, the Young Fishermen’s Development Act to address the longtime decline in younger Americans entering the commercial fishing fleet  – or “graying of the fleet.” Young’s legislation would create the first ever national grant program through the Department of Commerce to support training, education, and workplace development for the nation’s next generation of commercial fishermen.

“This innovative new program is only one effort to preserve fishing heritage and encourage new participation in the industry,” said Congressman Don Young. “Young commercial fishermen are facing bigger challenges than ever before – new barriers to entry, limited training opportunities and a lack of support. This legislation is about supporting the livelihoods of fishing communities in Alaska and across the nation. I’m proud to stand with our young fishermen by introducing this important piece of legislation.”

Congressman Young introduced H.R. 2079 with Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) to create a completive grant program – modeled closely after the successful Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program – to provide meaningful resources for younger generations of Americans entering and progressing in the fishing industry.

“The fishing industry is vital to the Sixth District and to our entire region, but we’re at a crossroads,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA). This legislation will help to sustain the fishing industry by ensuring that our young people not only have a future in fishing, but are also empowered with the training and resources necessary to thrive in the 21st-century economy. I’m grateful to Congressman Young for his collaboration on this bill and broader efforts to support our young fishermen.”

The legislation would authorize up to $200,000 in competitive grants through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program to support new and established local and regional training, education, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives for young fishermen. These programs, workshops and service include: seamanship, navigation, electronics, and safety; vessel and engine care, maintenance, and repair; innovative conservation fishing gear engineering and technology; entrepreneurship and good business practices; direct marketing, supply chain, and traceability; financial and risk management, including vessel, permit, and quota purchasing.

Fishermen’s Association. “Empowering the next generation of young fishermen is essential to economic opportunity, food security and our way of life.”

“Representatives Moulton and Young understand that the success of young fishermen is vital to the survival of fishing communities in New England and across the country,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “We look forward to working with them on this important effort to ensure the next generation of commercial fishermen are on the water and ready to sustainably harvest America’s seafood.”

 

Abundance-Based Proposal

Executive Director Jim Johnson and Bob Alverson from the Fishing Vessel Owners Association have advanced the following Abundance-Based Proposal for consideration by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council at the April meeting in Juneau, Alaska.

 

        
March 27, 2017

Mr. Dan Hull, Chairman
North Pacific Fishery Management Council
605 W. 4th, Suite 306
Anchorage, AK 99501-2252

RE:    Comments to Agenda Item C-7 Bering Sea and Aleutian Island Abundance-Based Halibut PSC

Dear Chairman Hull:

The following comments and recommendation are provided to you from the Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association (FVOA) and Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union of the Pacific (DSFU). The FVOA is a trade association representing 95 family-owned longline vessels. It has been representing fixed-gear interests since 1914. The DSFU was established in 1912 and is not only the oldest, but also the sole, fishing union in Washington and the United States still working tirelessly to advocate for fair wages, safe working conditions, and supporting our widely-recognized, sustainable, and well-managed fixed-gear fisheries. Both organizations have a direct interest in reducing halibut bycatch in the Bering Sea. Both organizations have members fishing in all the U.S. IPHC regulatory areas ranging from the Bering Sea to Area 2A off Washington and Oregon.

The following option addresses the interest of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (NPFMC) in the development of an abundance-based halibut PSC mechanism for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. The Council’s working committee has identified two, important decision points: the starting PSC use amount for an abundance-based program, and the mechanism that would result in a plus or minus function based on halibut abundance. The ability, annually or otherwise periodically, to allow the PSC use amount to fluctuate based on certain scientific and economic data inputs requires a framework amendment to the Bering Sea Groundfish Plan. Accordingly, the FVOA and DSFU submit the following, proposed, framework plan. 

Our option puts the Council in control at all times when adjusting the PSC use CAP for different sectors of the groundfish fishery.  As industry technology advances, the Council can take precautionary, incremental steps to reduce the use CAP in the interest of bycatch management, without the fear of causing undue economic impact on the directed fisheries.  By the same token, as the densities of halibut and/or groundfish target species change, up or down, the Council can respond.

The approach we offer is to have the Council analyze a range of potential future reductions from the current PSC limits. We recommend the starting point be the current PSC CAPs. We recommend analysis of a range of possible reductions between 35 to 50 percent from the current PSC use amounts. This would represent the maximum potential reduction limit. PSC reductions would be achieved with the Council making annual incremental movements in the PSC usage to achieve long-term reduction goals through their current “specs” process. Reduction of the halibut PSC use limits would be constrained to not more than zero to 3 percent annually. The Council would apply the reductions until the groundfish fleets minimize bycatch and mortality of unavoidable bycatch to the extent practicable until PSC limits equal the amount of bycatch the fleets were actually experiencing at the end of 2016.  After PSC use levels were reduced to current usages, the Council would move the PSC level ±3 percent on an annual basis.  

At the end of 2016, the freezer longline fleet was using 60% of its current CAP.  It might be expected that the Council would ratchet down PSC over a period of four or five years to reach that level of actual bycatch.  For the Amendment 80 fleet, the bycatch for 2016 was 1492 Mt and it might be expected that the PSC would be reduced to that level in three or four years.
 
This option could be developed as part of any future, abundance-based program or developed as a stand-alone amendment to the current Bering Sea and Aleutian Island Groundfish Management Plan.  Amendments could be offered to it when a holistic abundance-based concept was completed by the Council and IPHC staff. 

Considering that the abundance-based bycatch science will not be completed for as long as ten years, the FVOA and the DSFU suggest the adoption of this option as a stand-alone amendment. The phased approach to CAP reductions would allow the groundfish fleet to calibrate solutions, and would incentivize the fleets by letting them know that PSC reductions are an ongoing concern.

Sincerely,
Executive Director
James J. Johnson
DEEP SEA FISHERMEN’S UNION

Sincerely,
Robert D. Alverson    
Manager
FISHING VESSEL OWNERS’ ASSOCIATION    

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