Sustainable fishing promoted in Maine

Three nonprofits are purchasing Maine’s first “permit bank” that will be distributed to fishermen practicing sustainable fishing methods.

The Nature Conservancy and Rockland, Maine-based Island Institute will purchase one groundfishing permit that will go to Port Clyde, Maine, fishermen testing more selective fishing nets, while Stonington, Maine-based Penobscot East Resource Center will join with the Nature Conservancy to purchase another permit giving additional fishing days to Down East fishermen who help study local stocks such as codhaddock and flounder.

The organizations will cover the estimated USD 250,000 (EUR 180,400) per permit fee, as well as the cost of fuel, fishermen’s time and research expenses. Permit banking will also allow the organizations to work with fishermen on collaborative research projects without asking them to use their days at sea.

With the support of USD 1 million (EUR 721,600) in federal fisheries assistance, Maine’s Department of Marine Resources is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop a state permit bank that will buy and lease additional fishing days to Maine fishermen struggling to stay afloat, as well as fund lobster groundline exchange, dockside monitoring, collaborative research and NOAA administrative costs. 

“DMR’s intent is to acquire permits and then lease them to qualified vessels that are based out of and land their catch in Maine. By ensuring the availability of additional fishing opportunities, the program should help maintain the fishing infrastructure and traditions in Maine’s geographically distributed ports,” said Terry Stockwell, deputy commissioner of Maine’s DMR. “In the short term this should help our existing fishery remain alive and in the long term allow for future access for when the stocks recover.”

Stockwell said he anticipates the program, expected to be implemented later this year, to generate four to five permits.

In addition to promoting the sustainability of Maine fishery, the permits will enable the growth of the state’s shrinking groundfishing fleet, which has declined nearly 79 percent over the last 15 years, as well as support the distribution of fishing rights to smaller harbors and vessels east of Port Clyde that no longer legally access the groundfish fishery and depend on lobster catches for income.

The consolidation of permits is expected to increase as the fishing industry shifts from day-at-sea limits to a new catch-share management system that will enable permits to represent volume instead of days at sea.

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