An innovative program to fix the fishing industry in Maine

Port Clyde fisherman Gary Libby

I recently published a story in Mainebiz about the The Nature Conservancy and a program it has in place in Maine that aims to change the fishing industry from the inside out.

Read “Tipping the scales”.

Rather than combat unsustainable fishing practices by lobbying for tougher restrictions or boycotting products, the organization in 2009 purchased two fishing permits and has been leasing them at discount rates to fishermen on the condition they help out by testing more sustainable fishing gear — for example, a net with larger mesh to allow more of the unwanted fish, the bycatch, to escape — and reporting back on their findings.

The program has proved successful and the The Nature Conservancy is now in the process of raising $1.3 million to purchase as many as five additional fishing permits. The goal is to take the land trust model The Nature Conservancy has perfected on land and transfer it to the oceans. The six or seven fishing permits the organization would own would be the foundation of a communally-managed permit bank in Maine. Ideally, a community of fishermen would manage the permits, allowing fishermen to use them as long as they utilize sustainable fishing methods. The Nature Conservancy’s belief is that the tragedy of the commons can be combated by giving the fishermen a hand in controlling how the resource is managed. If this pilot proves successful, The Nature Conservancy — one of the largest environmental nonprofits in the world — would work to duplicate it in other parts of the globe where the commercial fishing industry is collapsing.

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