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A start-up guide to fisheries licence banks

Fisheries reform has often had unintended or ill-considered consequences. Downsizing schemes, for example, have disproportionately affected rural and Indigenous fish harvesters, and worsened over-capitalization in licences and quota. If there is to be a sustainable fishery in the future there must be new ways for fish harvesters to access licences and quota to ensure benefits from fisheries flow back to active fish harvesters and their communities.

This start-up guide or toolkit describes a way of organizing a fisheries licence bank. A licence bank is a cooperative ownership structure that allows active fish harvesters or communities to pool licences and quota together to accrue greater benefits than they would alone. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

A licence bank works by holding licences and/or quota that is then leased back to members, at reduced or “fair trade” rates, improving the economic viability and securing access for members. This model can achieve multiple socioeconomic goals including improved fisheries management as well as the promotion of sustainable fishing practices.

The model is useful for:

  • Providing options to fish harvesters with little access to traditional forms of capital
  • Pooling fish harvesters to improve cooperation and operating efficiencies
  • Maintaining small boat enterprises through combining a variety of licences/quota to meet access needs
  • Spreading risk and benefits in high risk fisheries investments
  • Connecting fishing enterprises to fishing dependent communities
  • Supporting the development of sustainable fisheries
  • Providing affordable access to future generations of fish harvesters

Licence banks fundamentally depend upon fish harvesters as integral partners. A licence bank without fish harvesters is just an investment company; a licence without someone to fish it is just a piece of paper. A licence bank can consist of fish harvesters partnering with outside investors or the fish harvesters themselves can be the majority shareholders. What is vital for fish harvesters is that they be key decision makers, that they share in the success of the licence bank, and that they commit to a code of conduct established by all partners within the licence bank.

This start-up guide outlines seven key steps on how to develop a licence bank including examples drawn the Pacific Coast Fishermen’s Conservation Company (PCFCC), a licence bank founded by a group of fish harvesters and Ecotrust Canada.

Detailed information is provided on:

  • Who might benefit from a licence bank and how to organize potential partners
  • Structure, principles, purpose, and goals
  • Accessing capital and developing business plans
  • Shareholder agreement, operational procedures, and evaluation frameworks
  • Getting and staying operational

The toolkit is designed for those fish harvesters who want new business models that will improve their bottom line and the long-term health of their fishery, and those organizations that want to help fish harvesters succeed, recognizing the interconnection between healthy economies, healthy communities and a healthy environment.

TOOLKIT: Fisheries Licence Bank (2008)

TEMPLATE: Fisheries Licence Bank Toolkit Shareholder Agreement (2008)

TEMPLATE: Fisheries Licence Bank Operating Procedures (2008)