Senate approves groundfish buyback - Fishers would relinquish permits to fish, boats couldn't be used for fishing anywhere in the world

The Olympian


SAN FRANCISCO -- The Senate on Wednesday approved a plan to reduce the number of people fishing for groundfish on the West Coast, in an attempt to provide some relief to the beleaguered fishery and those who make their living off it.
The bill, authored by Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., will go before the House on Friday.

If it passes, the buyback program would go into effect 90 days after it becomes law. It would allow owners of boats to bid on how much they would take for buyouts, and the government would decide which bids to accept.

The fishers would relinquish their permits to fish and their boats could not be used for fishing anywhere in the world.

West Coast groundfish, pink shrimp and Dungeness crab fisheries are covered by the buyback.

Fees collected from fishermen who continue to fish would pay back $50 million in federal loan guarantees to start the buyback program. The Fishermen's Marketing Association had pushed for the buyback program, and fishermen had agreed to repay half the cost of the buyback, but the proposal stalled in Congress. Fishers have since agreed to pay back the program in full.

The groundfish fishery, which includes fish sold as Pacific red snapper, was declared a disaster in 2000, and eight species have been declared "overfished."

The federal Pacific Fishery Management Council earlier this year approved severe limits on fishing to protect the depleted populations.


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