Potential buyer of Carlos Rafael fleet, permits offering USD 93 million
Richard Canastra, who co-owns the Whaling City Seafood Display Auction in New Bedford,, said he and his brother have entered into a memorandum of agreement with Carlos Rafael to buy his fishing fleet and permits for USD 93 million (EUR 79.5 million).
In an interview with WBSM, a radio station in New Bedford, Massachusetts, Canastra confirmed he and Ray Canastra are working to secure financing for the deal, even though it is dependent on a judge’s decision as to whether to allow the sale. Rafael was convicted of falsifying fish quotas, tax evasion, and conspiracy in March 2017 and as part of his guilty plea, he agreed to forfeit the 13 fishing boats and their groundfish permits.
“We know boats. We know the business. We’re doing this to keep this in New Bedford,” Richard Canastra told WBSM. “My plan is to get out, hopefully, in 10 years when things lighten up and it can be sold properly instead of this fire sale where people want everything for nothing.”
In the interview, Canastra criticized those have advocated for the fish quotas to be redistributed beyond New Bedford.
"Our biggest competitors here are the NGOs and people up in Maine who are in cahoots with the NGOs," he said.
"There are groups up in Maine that believe that these permits should be dissolved back into the industry, or even given back to them," Canastra said. "In reality, if they dissolve all these permits into the industry, every permit holder would receive anywhere between 200 to 300 pounds of each species, so it would not really gain anything for that permit holder but it would destroy New Bedford."
The judge in the case recently questioned whether he had the authority to decide what to do with Rafael’s permits, and questioned the constitutionality of their full seizure, according to the Bangor Daily News. He is expected to issue a ruling once he has arrived at a decision on the permits, the newspaper reported.
Canastra said the reason his family is pursuing the acquisition of Rafael’s permits is primarily motivated by altruism.
"We wanted to keep everything in New Bedford,” he said. “Ray and I had to make a decision – do we want to do this? I'm 56 years old, Ray is 60 years old. It's a big task...at this later stage in our life. We believe that it's the right thing to do for New Bedford. The waterfront has been good for us since 1986, [we] started the auction in '94, and we'd hate to see the industry collapse because of what Carlos did in the past."