Consolidation of the fleet confirmed by NE Science Center

By Sean Sullivan, NAMA’s Outreach Marketing and Development Associate

As if it were not obvious from the lack of activity along the waterfronts of smaller ports and those with dayboat fleets, the New England Science Center’s review of the first year of sectors confirms what almost everyone now knows, the New England fleet is rapidly consolidating into the hands a few.  From the executive summary:

Several measures of fishing activity and effort also continued to decline in 2010:
there were 18% fewer active vessels in 2010 than in 2007, 46% fewer groundfish trips, 38% fewer days absent on groundfish trips, and fewer crew positions, days, and trips.

So, not only are there less fishermen and crew out there fishing, fishing revenues are also consolidating into the hands of a few:

There has also been an increasing concentration of groundfish revenues among top earning vessels, as revenues have become consolidated on fewer vessels. About 66% of revenues from groundfish sales during 2007-2009 resulted from landings by 20% of active groundfish vessels. In 2010, 75% of the revenues from groundfish sales resulted from landings by 20% of active groundfish vessels.  

Those in favor of consolidation point to increased revenues as a sign that sectors are working to help the industry. But, as the report notes, revenues are up but only compared to the last two years:

Revenues from all species landed were higher in 2010 than in 2008 or 2009, but were $4 million less than in 2007.

These are trends that are part and parcel of privatization schemes. We’ve seen the rapid consolidation of family farms. We’ve also seen other privatized fisheries turn into what are in effect sharecropper arrangements where quota “owners” lease out quota to fishermen.

It sure seems like folks are waking up to the loss of our community based fishermen, but will it be too late?