Fisherman with hookAs part of Penobscot East’s New Entrants Program, we are interested in helping owner-operator, small scale fishermen access the groundfishery successfully and affordably.

The groundfish industry made the switch to catch-share management in 2010 in an effort to help rebuild fish stocks in the Gulf of Maine. Vessels received individual allocations based on their catch history from 1996-2006. This management change had several effects on groundfish permits.

Fishermen who were groundfishing full time during that period received the larger allocations, making their permits very valuable. Fishermen who historically caught fish part-time, or who were not targeting groundfish during that period, received only a nominal allocation, or no allocation at all.

The dollar value of these is low now. As a result, some fishermen feel that they cannot turn enough profit from their allocation to make a successful business, driving them to sell or lease what quota they have, or in some cases, giving up their permit by not doing the paperwork to renew. In many cases, these permits are held by fishermen who are close to retirement.

These low- or no-quota permits may provide the best opportunity for access into the fishery for part time or small scale fishermen. The permits are less expensive to acquire and now who hold permits — even ones without quota — have the opportunity to lease quota from permit banks or the open market. In a limited access fishery like this, the permits  are the “right to fish” and as such, have tremendous value to young fishermen and their communities.

As stocks begin to rebuild in the near shore waters of eastern Maine, fishermen must have affordable access to the fishery — allowing a diverse fleet to fish for groundfish. Fleet diversity means many different sizes of boats fishing across a range of inshore and offshore grounds using various gear types and landing fish in many ports along the coast. Fleet diversity is important for the health of coastal communities and the economies that they support.

Fishing is the bread and butter of many small communities on the New England coast, and it is our responsibility to help those communities thrive.