Maine bill seeks bond to aid groundfish industry

AUGUSTA — Lawmakers moved closer Wednesday to approving a bill designed to help Maine groundfishermen increase their catch in federal waters.

L.D. 939, sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, would authorize a $3.5 million bond to help fishermen land more fish by subsidizing the purchase of permits in the Groundfish Permit Bank. The proposal is one of two remaining in this session designed to bolster the state’s dwindling groundfish industry. It has received unanimous support in the House and Senate.

If the bill is enacted, the bond will need approval from Maine voters.

The state now participates in the Groundfish Permit Bank. L.D. 939 would allow fishermen to buy additional permits. Supporters say the bill would assist an industry that has declined because of reduced catch quotas. Federal regulations are expected to lead to an approximately 70 percent decrease in quotas for cod and haddock and an estimated 50 percent decrease in sole and yellowtail flounder.

Maine’s groundfish fleet comprised about 350 boats in the 1990s. It had about 70 boats in 2012. The catch has shrunk over that period, from 44.8 million pounds worth $33 million during the 1990s to 6.6 million pounds worth $6.2 million in 2009.

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