A Local Fish Fund is open for business to help young Alaskan fishermen buy quota shares of halibut and sablefish.
“The cost of entering Alaska’s fisheries is daunting for young people. There is a huge amount of risk and big upfront costs and we’re looking for ways to help people get that start. Where they share the risk with the fund and get fishing history and borrowing history and at the end of their loan with Local Fish Fund can qualify for more traditional loans.”
Linda Behnken is director of the Alaska Longline Fisheries Association in Sitka and a founder of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust.
Both are part of a mix of fisheries, conservation and finance expertise that created over 10 years the Local Fish Fund. Its loans use a flexible “revenue participation” approach where repayments are based on fish landings.
“Part of what has made it really challenging for young fishermen to buy into the fisheries is the uncertainty of the abundance of fish, the amount of quota each fishermen will have and the price of the fish and how that will affect their ability to make fixed payments that don’t fluctuate as abundance or fish prices drop.”
“What we were looking to do is find a way to share and reduce that risk for young fishermen so the payments are based on the exvessel returns, so what fishermen are paid at the dock. If stocks of fish falls, if the price falls, so too does the payment that fishermen make each year. Conversely, if they go up, it’s a bigger that goes to the fishermen and also a bigger share to help pay back the loan and build equity in that loan.”
Fishermen also are given a one percent break in their loan interest rate if they participate in local projects, such as electronic monitoring or networking to keep whales away from fishing gear.
Dustin Solberg is with The Nature Conservancy in Cordova –
“There are opportunities for fishermen and the scientific community to team up to get a better understanding of our fisheries and the ocean environment. Some of the partners we’re working with are coming specifically from that impact investment sector that is trying to obtain conservation goals through innovative lending.”
Fund backers also include the Rasmuson Foundation, Catch Together, Craft 3, the Oak Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
For now the fish fund is lending to quota buyers in Southeast Alaska and will expand to other regions. Learn more at LocalFishFund.org