Provincetown commercial fishermen find ways to survive in a struggling industry
By Peter Brown | Banner Staff
PROVINCETOWN — They may not be cut from the same cloth, but they are bound by a common thread.
Chris King, Mike Packard and Beau Gribbin are commercial fishermen who fish out of Provincetown. Even as the number of fishermen here has fallen off steeply, they have survived. And they go on seeking better ways of making a living.
“We represent three different roles in the spectrum,” says Gribbin. “We employ different strategies.”
“I am happy with where I am,” says Gribbin, who will be finishing up his lobstering on Feb. 1. Gribbin owns two boats, and he seldom allows anyone else to operate either of them. Besides his lobster boat, his scallop dragger, the F/V Glutton, is in Gloucester undergoing a major refit.
“Last year, scalloping was down from the prior year,” says Gribbin. “The lobstering has not been bad. All in all, we have had three years of banner fishing, both lobsters and scallops.”
Gribbin is concerned about how the younger guys who want to take up fishing will overcome the steep barriers to entry. The permits, the boats, the gear and insurance — it’s all very expensive, perhaps too expensive, he says.
“You have to buy your quota and figure out how to pay for it. It’s very hard,” says Gribbin.
He credits the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance and the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust in Chatham for making their community-based ownership of quota program, along with their “permit bank,” a reality. In the 2013 annual report, the trust reports their campaign to keep the Cape’s historical fishing rights in local hands here on Cape Cod has translated into the trust now controlling over $4.1 million in permits. Accessing permits at more affordable prices via the alliance means, among other things, that anyone new to the industry encounters a much lower barrier to entry into the fishery in the process.