The “fleet diversity amendment,” Amendment 18 to the New England Fishery Management Council’s groundfish plan, proposes to prevent excessive consolidation brought about by the move to sector-based management. Without effective safeguards New England’s small boat fleet is at risk of being entirely excluded from the groundfish fishery.
Sector management is a form of deregulation, which is widely recognized as causing consolidation in other industries such as the energy and financial sectors. The fishing industry is responding similarly to the move to sector-based management implemented in 2010. Fishermen with the greatest access to capital, and often the largest and most mobile boats, can now buy quota and exert disproportionate control over the fishery.
In an effort to mitigate industry consolidation and ensure that small-scale, owner-operator fishermen can sustain and create viable businesses and compete effectively both on the water and in the marketplace, Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries was an early supporter of Amendment 18. Specifically, we asked for:
- Caps on the accumulation of fishing quota, similar to those found in many other fisheries,
- Added rules to prevent excessive fishing capacity on inshore waters,
- Protections for owner-operator fishermen, and
- Quota set-asides to support future new-entrant fishermen.
Because of the support that Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries and others have brought to the New England Fishery Management Council for action, the Council held public scoping hearings – a series of public outreach meetings from Ellsworth, Maine to Manahawkin, New Jersey where fishermen and community members shared their perspectives on the proposed amendment. The result was overwhelming support in favor of fleet diversity protections. Unfortunately, since those hearings the Council ignored the calls of fishermen and the public alike and eliminated many of the protections small-scale fishermen had asked for. The Council instead finalized an approach that would allow companies and individuals to buy up to 15% of the New England groundfish quota, essentially leaving the fishery in the hands of as few as 7 big players. This is not what Amendment 18 was intended to accomplish.
Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries partners with the Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA) and others through the Fish Locally Collaborative (FLC) to secure real change through this amendment and protect New England’s fleet diversity. We will continue to demand adequate protections for community fishermen in the Amendment 18 process and beyond. For more information, visit NAMA’s Who Fishes Matters campaign.