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Fishing-permit buyback proposed

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

A proposal to buy back fishing permits was officially presented by the federal government this week in an attempt to reduce competition in the Pacific fishing industry.

Fishermen in Del Norte County have been battling moratoriums on groundfishing during the past couple years, and some have proposed a buyback program to ease the situation.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published the notice to buy back permits for the groundfish trawl industry and is seeking public comments for the next 30 days.

"In essence, we're going to offer to buy back the permits permanently from the fishermen, to reduce the fishery permanently," said Brian Gorman, spokesman from the agency's Seattle office. "They will no longer be able to use their boats for fishing, although they can use them for anything else."

Gorman said the plan would entail the government loaning the money to buy back the permits and reeling the money back during the next 30 years by adding a tax at harbor landings for the remaining fishing boats.

"There are a number of ways to deal with the problem, but we think this is the fairest," Gorman said. "There are simply too many fishing boats going after the same amount of fish that half the boats could catch."

Crescent City fisherman Richard Young, owner of the vessel "City of Eureka," drafted a letter to Sen. Barbara Boxer in October suggesting Congress buy back commercial fishing permits and fishing rights to reduce the number of boats fishing depleted stocks.

The Crescent City Harbor Board supported Young's proposal and signed onto his letter last October.

Last year, Del Norte County was one of nine California counties in a program getting money from the federal government to pay displaced fishermen and groundfish processors while they train for other jobs.

Also, the California Department of Fish and Game assigned $763,000 to fund research to seek out ways to improve the management of the fishery.

The West Coast groundfish fishery was declared a disaster in 2000, at which time drastic cuts were imposed on catch limits.

The NOAA notice can be found on the Internet at: www.nwr.noaa.gov/

Comments on the proposed regulations should be addressed to: Michael L. Grable, Chief, Financial Services Division, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3282.

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