The Nature Conservancy in Maine today announced the purchase of new a federal groundfish permit that will be made available to Maine fishermen to help secure a sustainable future for both fish populations and fishing communities.
The permit has been enrolled in the Port Clyde Community Groundfish Sector, and local fishermen will soon begin working under the new permit. Purchasing this permit allows The Nature Conservancy to perform collaborative research with fishermen into more sustainable fishing practices, and to then encourage fishermen to adopt the new methods that are proven through that research.
The ultimate aim: To help fish stocks rebound while benefitting local fishermen’s bottom lines.
“Maine fishermen have the experience needed to develop more selective gear and more sustainable fishing practices. We are happy to be partnering with fishermen to help build a better future for groundfish populations in the Gulf of Maine and the fishing communities that depend on them” said Geoff Smith, marine program director at The Nature Conservancy in Maine.
The Nature Conservancy’s work with fishermen has already helped identify some net configurations — the sizes and shapes of the holes in the net — that reduce bycatch of juvenile fish.
“The really good news is that using these nets can reduce bycatch and increase the value of the fish back at the dock,” Smith said. “This permit will allow us to do more research and provide incentives for more fishermen to try new methods,” he said.
“We found common ground around a strategy that we both believe in,” said Vincent Balzano, a Saco-based fisherman who is working with the Conservancy. “What matters most is that we have the same goal: To have as many fish in the ocean as we possibly can.”
Permit banks have grown increasingly popular since the shift to sector management in the groundfish fishery two years ago. Sector management allows self-selecting groups of fishermen the opportunity to band together to manage their groundfish allocation cooperatively. Under this new management structure, permit banks provide a mechanism for fishermen and community groups to keep fishing opportunity available locally, and provide access to local fishermen at reasonable rates.
By making the quota on this new permit available at reasonable rates to local fishermen who use the more sustainable fishing practices, The Nature Conservancy hopes to encourage adoption of these methods and help support small business owners during this transition to the new system, according to Smith.
“Ending overfishing and rebuilding depleted groundfish populations to healthy, sustainable levels is a fundamental goal shared by many in the region, including fishermen, fisheries managers and conservation groups,” Smith said.
“Today, we're in a rebuilding stage of groundfish and it's essential to have more quota to help give the fishing fleet some relief,” said Gerry Cushman, of the Port Clyde Community Groundfish Sector.
For the past two seasons, The Nature Conservancy and its partners at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Island Institute, and Penobscot East have used permits to support a variety of cooperative research projects with Maine fishermen. An ongoing project has already demonstrated that new gear configurations and fishing practices can help fishermen better target the cod, flounder and other groundfish they’re seeking, and reduce bycatch of juvenile fish and unwanted species.
“It's also important to have quota for research use to ensure a sustainable fishery in the future. I'm a fisherman from Port Clyde, and the support we've received from The Nature Conservancy has been a critical part of our progress over the past few years,” Cushman said.
For more information about permit banks and sustainable fisheries, please visit:
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.