The National Marine Fisheries Service will be holding informational meetings in three Southeast Alaska communities this month on a purse seine buyback program.

The agency is holding the meetings in preparation for a vote by permit holders on whether to go ahead with the fleet reduction. Owners of the 379 Southeast seine permits will be deciding this spring on a loan to buy 64 of those permits and remove them from the fishery. The loan would be repaid by the remaining fleet members with a fee imposed on future landings.

Supporters of the buyback say it will reduce the capacity of a fleet that’s grown much more efficient at catching salmon since the limited-entry fishery started. Opponents don’t see a point in reducing fleet numbers and say it will mean fewer deckhand jobs and a reduced political voice for the fleet.

NMFS has published a notice in the Federal Register with a list of all eligible permit holders and is taking public comment on that list until March 16th.

NFMS plans to hold four meetings March 5th-7th and will field comments and questions about the buyback program. The first will be at Fishermens Terminal in Seattle Monday March 5th.

A meeting is planned in Petersburg at the city council chambers Tuesday, March 6th from noon to 2 p.m. Another session will be Wednesday, March 7th from 10 to noon at the Ted Ferry Civic Center in Ketchikan and a meeting will be held later that day from 7-9 p.m. at the Northern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association in Sitka.

Here’s the notice from the Federal Register:
Eligible Voters and Meeting FR Notice 03 01 12 11

To hear an earlier story on the buyback proposal, click here.