DSFU Leads Effort to Evaluate Entry Level Quota Opportunities for Deckhands and Skippers

In what started as an Alaska-only option, DSFU Executive Director broadens IFQ opportunities for disenfranchised crew and skippers and wins support by the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council for an expanded discussion paper

Previously in 2018, the Council directed staff to produce a discussion paper that would study how Norway approaches access challenges in their fishery. It is well understood by industry that Sablefish and Halibut fishermen in the North Pacific face daunting obstacles and challenges accessing capital, quota and fishing vessels/equipment.

Presented to the Advisory Panel of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council on June 7th and the full Council on June 9th, the discussion paper (below) went well beyond Norwegian practices and included other countries’ approaches to access problems that included non-reallocative methods such as public and private financing and grants.

Click to read - IFQ Access Opportunities Global Examples - Discussion Paper

The Council discussion paper outlined domestic and international examples of programs that facilitate access opportunities for rural communities and new entrants within limited access fisheries and provides a more detailed review of Norway’s Recruitment Quota, and highlighted access program design specifications, distributional impacts, and legal considerations that may be relevant to an application in the North Pacific for the Halibut and Sablefish IFQ Program.

The initial Advisory Panel motion recommended that only a narrow subset of Gulf of Alaska (GOA) fishermen and GOA rural communities would be evaluated in an expanded discussion paper against a narrow set of options to create an access pool funded by existing GOA quota shareholders.

Deep Sea Fishermen’s Union (DSFU) Executive Director and Advisory Panel Member, Jim Johnson, orchestrated the final Advisory Panel motion advising the Council to ask staff for an expanded discussion paper identifying considerations related to the creation of a quota Access Pool for halibut and sablefish QS that facilitates entry-level opportunities for all participants, not only Alaska’s.

After much testimony and debate, the Council on June 9th voted to accept DSFU’s final Advisory Panel motion for an expanded discussion paper that would:

  1. Evaluate an Access Pool targeted at crewmembers and vessel owner-operators whose QS holdings equate to less than 5,000 lbs. of IFQ in 2019; and

  2. Evaluate the Access Pool as temporary in nature with qualifying participants only able to fish Access Pool quota for a set number of years; and

  3. Presume that Access Pool QS could not be sold; and

  4. Study funding options for the Access Pool that would be limited to an amount equal to 1% of the 2019 halibut; and

  5. Assume that the Access Pool could be “funded” either by newly created QS units, by withholding 0.5% or 1.0% of QS that is transferred, or a combination of the two; and

  6. Consider that Access Pool to be structured such that a Regional Fishery Association (RFA) or another entity receives the allocation and determines the criteria for distribution to applicants; and

  7. Highlight explicit Council decision points necessary for this approach, the amount of detail needed to develop criteria for allocation, effects on the QS market and existing QS holders, and MSA considerations regarding the ability to allocate QS to RFAs.

Additionally, staff testified that the Norwegian government was about to release a 10 year review of their program and I thought it prudent that before we jump in any further on the Norwegian model or some other model we would study what happened with the Norwegians until the IFQ Committee has had a chance to weigh in (listen to testimony above).

Final Advisory Panel Motion that was accepted by Council

The consensus of the Advisory Panel prevailed and the Council agreed to study this matter further in a fair and equitable fashion to see what in can be done to assist all fishermen and the communities in Alaska, Washington and Oregon.

The Union awaits the results of further analysis of potential solutions to the challenging problems of access and does not endorse any particular approach at this point. It remains to be seen how the Council will work this issue without benefit of metrics for success and with a potential funding mechanism that burdens many of the already beleaguered quota shareholders with the cost of funding a new entry program without making a new-entry program unsupportable by a large segment of the quota holding community.

We now await the next meeting of the IFQ Committee and expanded discussion paper that has yet to be assigned and scheduled.

Please don’t hesitate to call Jim Johnson at (206) 783-2922 for additional information and for ideas how you might become more involved and informed on this and other matters.