Consolidation Disproportionately Affects Smaller Communities

By Sara Randall, guest blogger

Bangor, Maine

Note: This letter was addressed to New England fisheries decision-makers regarding Amendment 18 to the groundfish plan. We encourage everyone to join Sara by submitting your own comments in support of fleet diversity. Click here to learn how.

To the New England Fisheries Management Council,

I am a native Mainer that is deeply concerned about the consolidation and loss of access that is occurring in New England’s smaller ports, especially Maine. I oppose the no‐action alternative “a” because the loss of fleet diversity is a major problem facing the industry and our coastal communities.

I am writing as a concerned citizen and supporter of fishermen and fishing communities. I gained an appreciation of commercial fishermen growing up in the small community of South Freeport, where, according to the Council’s data, a groundfish permit resided as late as 2004. As a resident of Maine, I like to buy my seafood as locally as possible. I fear that my fellow Mainers and I will no longer have this option if no action is taken to address the problem of consolidation. As it stands now, locally landed groundfish is conspicuously absent from many coastal communities.

Jonesport, Maine is amongst communities without access.

As consolidation disproportionately affects smaller communities, I would like the Council to take definite steps to preserve New England’s fishing heritage through strong fleet diversity measures. These measures should be taken to ensure access stays with actual fishermen (not banks) so the economic benefits stay within the community.

I recommend a range of actions to address alternatives b – f, including the designation of inshore and offshore management areas as well as incentives for owner‐operator vessels. Permits should remain in certain length categories, such as 0‐50 ft., 50‐ 70 ft., and 70 ft. and above, similar to what was done in the groundfish management system of eastern Canada. I also support accumulation caps of 2‐5% for any one entity.

I also support former Council Member Dana Rice’s proposal. He suggests that as groundfish stocks recover, more entrants, including permit holders with no quota and new entrants, should be allowed into the fishery. Additionally, when a permit is sold a percentage of the quota should stay in the corresponding state’s permit bank. Fish are a public trust resource, and there should be provisions in place to ensure all fishermen, not just a select few, have continued access to the resource in order to sustain our coastal communities.

The bottom line is that the ocean is diverse and fishing fleets have always been diverse. I am hopeful that the NEFMC will take significant action to ensure diversity in New England’s groundfish fleet. Fleet diversity measures that ensure equitable access will lead to increased food security as well as economic stability for our New England communities. Fleet diversity will also ensure an adaptable and truly efficient groundfish fleet.

Thank you for your consideration.

Thank you Sara for sharing your comments. We encourage everyone who, like Sara believes fleet diversity matters, to submit your own comments as part of a public comment period. Click HERE for help on e-mail comments. Every comment counts!