In the face of increased financial hardship — from significant cuts in catch limits and rising fuel prices — many fishing communities across the United States have launched loan programs specifically designed to provide the fishing industry with access to affordable financing and investment capital. From Alaska to Massachusetts, these programs include a range of innovative financing tools such as revolving loan funds and microlending programs. While some programs enable fishermen to purchase fishing quota or more selective gear (see Semi-pelagic door article), three others aim to bolster their workforce through training and development initiatives.
Many examples of effective fisheries loan funds come from Alaska. The state's Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan Fund (housed within Alaska's Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development) has offered long term, low-interest loans to its fishing industry for more than 40 years. Most recently they made funds available to promote the state's seafood industry through mariculture, community quota entity, and commercial charter fisheries revolving loan funds.
In New England, Cape Cod's Community Development Partnership (CDP) recently partnered with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries to establish the Groundfish Revolving Loan Fund for the 2012 fishing year. The program provides eligible Cape Cod fishermen with a line of credit up to $50,000 to lease groundfish quota, monkfish days-at-sea (DAS), or skate DAS. Additionally, CDP continues to offer small business loans of up to $40,000 to low- or moderate-income businesses, including fishermen, through their microloan program.
Undeniably, New England groundfish fishermen faced with significant cuts to next year's catch limits may need to seek temporary relief and access to capital investment funds to allow them to diversify their fishing efforts. Looking to states like Alaska with longstanding loan programs could help New England states further develop innovative pathways for administering and modeling new loan programs.
For more information on CDP's loan programs including the Groundfish Revolving Loan Fund, visit www.capecdp.org/content/programs_and_services/micro-lending-program/