April 21, 2017 — NOAA has approved a new rule to limit the number of permits and the amount of groundfish allocation any individual or entity can own in the Northeast multispecies fishery.
The rule is an attempt to create more diversity in the fishery by stemming the tide of consolidation. It prohibits any single ownership entity from acquiring an “excessive share of fishing privileges” or an unfair economic advantage over the groundfish market.
The rule precludes any ownership entity from possessing more than 5 percent of the total of limited access permits in the groundfishery. As of Feb. 21, there were 1,335 active permits in the fishery, which means no individual or entity can own more than 67 permits.
“The most permits held by any entity was 50,” the rule states. “Based on this information, this permit cap is unlikely to immediately restrict any entity.”
The rule, also known as Amendment 18 to the Northeast multispecies fishery management plan, also caps potential sector contributions (PSC). However, it removes several fishing restrictions “to increase operational flexibility for fishermen on limited access handgear vessels.”
“The combination of the PSC limit and 5 percent permit cap raises the difficulty and cost of acquiring enough permits and PSC for any one entity in the groundfish fishery to exert market power over the fishery,” the rule stated.
The rule, published Thursday in the Federal Register and principally effective May 20, has been long in the making.
The New England Fishery Management Council first started work on it in 2011. It approved the measure last August and submitted it to NOAA for public comment and final approval.