Alaska fishermen now have a little more leeway to borrow money from the state to pay for new permits, boats, licenses and other equipment.

House Bill 56, sponsored primarily by Representative Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, is rewriting sections of the state’s revolving commercial fishing loan program to change the limit on the amounts allowed for certain types of loans. Anglers who wish to purchase individual fishing quotas, or IFQs, limited entry permits or gear can now borrow up to $ 400,000, an increase from $ 300,000.

Governor Bill Walker promulgated the bill on August 31. Ortiz – which represents a district with a high proportion of jobs in commercial fishing and seafood processing – said in a statement from the Alaska House Majority Coalition that the bill is helping resident fishermen overcome the hurdle financial to enter commercial fishing.

“By removing bureaucratic and economic barriers, this bill brings us one step closer to the goal of helping Alaskans reap the benefits of our sustainable commercial fisheries,” said Ortiz.

The House passed the bill in 2017, but served on the Senate Finance Committee for the remainder of the long and controversial session before the Senate passed it in May 2018. Ortiz credited Senator Gary Stevens , R-Kodiak, for passing the bill. the Senate this year, although most of the legislature’s attention is focused on tax matters.

The Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan Fund is coordinated by the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development and is only available to people who have lived in Alaska for at least two years. Fishermen can take out low-interest loans for up to 15 years to finance fishing-related expenses, such as vessel modernization, gear purchases, or the purchase of fishing gear. allowed.

The amount of $ 300,000 was set in 1982, Ortiz wrote in a sponsorship statement to the Legislature. Factoring in inflation over the next 36 years, that would amount to roughly $ 746,000 today.

Alaska fishermen have faced increasingly high entry thresholds into commercial fisheries over the years. Due to concerns about the sustainability of stocks and overfishing, Alaska established the Restricted Access System in 1972 for state-regulated fisheries.

License values ​​vary depending on the value of the fishery, but can cost up to $ 190,800 for a fixed gillnet license in Prince William Sound or as little as $ 3,300 for a fixed gillnet license for salmon in the upper Yukon River, according to the Commercial Fisheries Entry Board. That’s not counting boats, equipment and fuel.

In 1992, federal regulators implemented a quota system for halibut that created the IFQ for a similar reason: to preserve stocks and slow fishing while allowing harvesting opportunities. The season now lasts from March to November compared to the “fish race” of the past where the full harvest could be taken in just a few days.

However, the market value of these quota shares increased so much that the small-scale rural fishermen of Alaska were driven out by the cost of buying the quotas, causing significant disruption in these rural fishing communities even two decades later. .

IFQs have been implemented in various fisheries in Alaska, including Bering Sea crab and pollock, to achieve the goal of sustainability through limited entry. While this may work for some fisheries, it has shown negative consequences for smaller ones, according to an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in August.

Courtney Carothers, a professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences and co-author of the study, said in a press release from the university that the study aimed to question whether a tool for Widely applied fisheries management like the IFQ system, known as ITQ (Individual Transferable Quotas) works for all fisheries.

“Sociologists have been frustrated with the assumption that ITQs are a simple solution for managing fisheries around the world,” Carothers said. “We were excited to get together and assess a few examples of where ITQs work, why sometimes they don’t and who is affected when an ITQ is not the right option for a fishery. “

She cited the example of the halibut fishery in Alaska, where some quota shares can cost as much as $ 70 a pound. The document suggests developing an “institutional diagnostic toolbox” to help regulators and fisheries managers assess the impact of a measure before implementing it, depending on the fisheries context.

“Toolkits like this could be used in many governance contexts to challenge users’ understanding of the impacts of a policy and help them develop solutions better suited to their particular context. They would not replace the more comprehensive approaches found in the literature, but rather constitute an intermediate step away from the panacea problem, ”the document states.

The legislature was considering another bill, HB 188, to address the same cost of entry issue. HB 188, sponsored by Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tompkins, D-Sitka, would allow up to three regions of Alaska to establish commercial fishing trusts that hold licenses and temporarily transfer those licenses to fishermen, essentially providing a intermediate step between being a deckhand and paying a small fortune to buy an entry permit.

Introduced in 2017, the bill was last heard in February 2018 and referred to the House of Commons Committee on Labor and Commerce.

Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.