Seawatch: Southeast seiners buy back permits

The Southeast Alaska Seiner’s Association was successful in their bid to buy back 36 permits after a February vote to use funds remaining from a 2012 successful buyback program.

The 2012 buyback retired 64 permits, and the current one will retire another 36, which is more than 10 percent of the remaining fleet of 315 permits.

The original loan program was a $24.4 million loan approved by Congress.

The buyback required a simple majority of permit holders to vote in a referendum overseen by the National Marine Fisheries Association, which will also administer the $10.4 million in funds. Ballots that were not returned were considered no votes.

The bid selection process was conducted in December before the votes were in and the 36 permits were lined up.

The $10.4 million for those permits comes to just under $290,000 per permit; there are few Southeast seine permits available through the brokers in Homer and Seattle, and all are for sale for $250,000 or less.

SEAS executive director Susan Dougherty said that this ends the buyback program.

“This exhausts our funds and will be the last of the permits bought out,” she said via text.

Repayment of the loans is through a landing tax not to exceed three percent, but the 2012 buyback is being repaid at a rate of one percent.

In December when the referendum was first announced, Doherty said that poor wild runs have made it difficult for the fishery to support the fleet at its current size.

“If it wasn’t for enhancement of chums in our fishery, a lot of folks would have already gone under,” she said. “If you look at time and area that fishermen have been given, it’s been decreasing and decreasing because of concerns that we’ve become more efficient, with bigger boats and more powerful skiffs, and also the sockeye, with our treaty with Canada — we’ve had big cuts in our time and area.”

Unlike the Bering Sea crab buyback where the boats were no longer able to be involved in any fishery, the boats whose permits have been retired have no restrictions on what they can be used for, which may or may not cause a drop in boat prices due to a glut, depending upon how many of those permits had boats attached to them that were not being used in

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com

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