Wednesday, October 29, 2014

BBRSDA Looks Into Potential Drift Permit Buyback

A fisheries organization representing drift gillnet permit holders in the famed Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery are looking into a potential buyback program.

With the potential of boosting permit prices and earnings of harvesters.

The Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association is taking this first step in the wake of a 2013 survey to which 81 percent of the Bristol Bay salmon drift gillnet permit holders who responded said they want to know more about a potential buyback program.

Prompted by such interest, the BBRSDA contracted with Northern Economics in Anchorage, which produced a report to assist the drift gillnet fleet in determining whether to further explore a buyback plan for their fishery.

Now BBRSDA plans to discuss the lengthy document with its membership at a conference on Nov. 20, during Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle.  Panelists for the discussion will include Matt Luck, BRSDA; Jonathan King, vice president and senior economist for Northern Economics; Jeff Regnart, Alaska Department of Fish and Game; Mike Sturtevant, National Marine Fisheries Service; and Bruce Twomley, Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission.

Copies of “Possible Design and Economic Outcomes of a Permit Buyback Program in the Bristol Bay Salmon Drift Gillnet Fishery” may be downloaded online at

The BBRSDA notes that the report does not address socio-economic information needed to fully evaluate the potential outcomes and impacts of a buyback program in the Bristol Bay drift fishery.

Following membership review and analysis of this report, BBRSDA will survey its members again, as to whether or not to proceed with a socio-economic impact analysis of a potential buyback. Both analyses are necessary to provide comprehensive information upon which to base a decision regarding the pros and cons of a potential buyback, the BBRSDA noted in a letter to members.

The report does provide objective economic information about the Bristol Bay salmon drift gillnet fishery, and projects how different buyback scenarios and associated payback schedules might impact gross and net revenues.

The report offers details on previous buyback programs for Washington salmon, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands king and tanner crab, Pacific Coast groundfish and Southeast Alaska purse seine salmon fisheries.

The report notes that while the purchase of fishing vessels and/or permits under a buyback program is an effective approach to quickly reduce fishing capacity to the desired level that buybacks are not a panacea for solving overcapacity problems over the long term.

In particular, the report notes, buyback programs, by themselves, do not address a root cause of excessive fishing capacity- the race-for-fish.”  In this situation, the report said, each fisherman has an incentive to increase his or her fishing capacity in order to catch fish before someone else does.

The study also looks at options for what may be purchased in a buyback program, in terms of permits and vessels, and different economic effects of purchasing active and inactive permits.

The study does recognize that a buyback will likely result in increased profit needed to invest and improve quality while it may also create an incentive for some permit holders to over-invest.

For further information contact Sue Aspelund, executive director of the BBRSDA at or 1-360-927-4259.

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