Cape Cod Fishermen Sell Permits in Effort to Keep Business Viable

fishing boatBARNSTABLE – The decline of groundfish is causing many fisherman to sell their permits and the Nature Conservancy is partnering with local fishermen’s organizations to acquire them in an effort to keep them local.

Tenacious II’s Eric Hesse, of West Barnstable, recently sold two groundfish permits to the conservancy.

“The Nature Conservancy has bought the permits as a way to ensure that they won’t migrate towards a large institutional-type buyer who might eventually own an inordinate share of the fishery,” Hesse said.

Hesse said fishermen are at a particularly vulnerable time.

“Stocks have sunk to a level where the permits can be just given away,” he said. “The Nature Conservancy has stepped in and offered a reasonable price for local fisherman and many see it as a chance to get out and move on to the next thing.”

Three other Cape Cod fisherman recently sold permits to the Nature Conservancy, and Martha’s Vineyard’s last remaining historic groundfish permit was also acquired.

“We wanted our fishing permit to stay on Martha’s Vineyard and not go to some corporation or conglomerate,” said Greg Mayhew, who fishes out of Menemsha on the Unicorn. “We want to give an opportunity to a local fisherman who will use our permit as one part of a diverse fishing business that was so much a part of our family through the years.”

The conservancy partnered with the Martha’s Vineyard Fisherman’s Preservation Trust to purchase the permit from Mayhew.

Hesse said the conservancy has agreed to lease the quotas back to local fishermen and eventually may sell them to local fishermen organizations and groups.

The Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance and the Nature Conservancy are leaders in community permit ownership, which is often referred to as “permit banking,” and have been active since the mid 2000s.

The conservancy first bought permits in California and has since started “permit banks” in Maine and New Hampshire.

The recent acquisitions on the Cape and the Vineyard are the conservancy’s first groundfish permits in Massachusetts.

“The Nature Conservancy and our fishing community partners have a shared goal of rebuilding groundfish populations, which is good for the marine ecosystem, good for fishing communities and good for fishermen’s businesses,” said the Nature Conservancy’s Marine Program Director Chris McGuire. “To reach that goal, we work directly with fishermen to help secure community access, enable innovation and improve the information used for fisheries management.”

McGuire said the conservancy ultimately plans to transfer the permits back to the communities.


  1. I currently fish quota TNC anchored in my community of Morro Bay CA, I wouldn’t have been able to purchase my own boat and continue fishing if it weren’t for this program. This is good, necessary work, if you want to have a healthy independent fleet when the stocks rebuild.

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