GULF FISHERY COUNCIL APPROVES PLAN FOR STATE MANAGEMENT OF RECREATIONAL RED SNAPPER FISHING

Biloxi, MS – Today the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council voted on a plan that would allow state fish and wildlife agencies to manage private angler fishing for red snapper. The vote comes in the final year of a two-year federal pilot testing the approach.

Share the Gulf is happy to see progress made on improving access of Gulf anglers that avoids harming other parts of the fishery, including the commercial and charter fishing industries.

Share the Gulf member and New Orleans-based chef and angler, Ryan Prewitt shared the following:

“I am cautiously optimistic that state management of private recreational red snapper fishing has the potential to improve angler access. As a fisherman myself, I’m excited that the Gulf Council process has worked to provide a solution for anglers without disrupting the successful federal systems for commercial fishermen and charter boats. Under Governor Edwards, Louisiana has set the gold standard for data collection and accountability and I hope to see the other Gulf states follow our model. Otherwise, they could risk undermining over a decade of sacrifices to rebuild red snapper and threaten the viability of the commercial fishery that restaurants like mine rely on for sustainable, fresh seafood for our customers.”

CHEF’S DILEMMA: SERVING SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD UNDER THREAT OF REALLOCATION

“I love to serve fresh, wild-caught Gulf fish. There can be a tipping point, though, at which it’s not possible. If market price exceeds what a customer is willing to pay, it won’t work,” explains Chef Evan Gastman, Executive Chef of three restaurants on Siesta Key, a famed Florida Gulf Coast barrier island attracting tourists and locals for its sugar-sand beaches and of course, fresh seafood.

It’s a quandary. Chefs like Gastman care about serving sustainably caught, locally-sourced seafood. They care about supporting Gulf fishing communities, they want to serve the best product and they want to know they’re supporting fisheries that are responsibly managed. Many chefs do this so their kids and grandkids will get to experience the coastal life they enjoy. But when fisheries managers propose to limit commercial fishermen’s access to fish, it can drive prices past the point of marketability for the restaurants and groceries stores that buy from them.

Sometimes, limits are necessary because the fish are in trouble. But often, proposals to take fish from the commercial sector are not about sustainability at all—instead, they would transfer the right to catch those fish to the recreational fishing sector. When commercial fishermen have to make do with less, prices for chefs like Gastman, and the seafood-lovers he serves, inevitably rise.

This might seem like purely an economic issue, with no bearing on the conservation of the species. It’s not. In fact, in the Gulf, several of the popular food fish species (including red snapper) are managed very differently depending on who is catching the fish. Commercial fishermen in these fisheries are held to strict, tightly monitored limits and report every pound of fish they catch, and they’ve have adhered to those limits for over a decade.

The for-hire sector (captains who are paid to take people out on recreational trips) is beginning to follow suit. In the private recreational sector, though, basic data collection is sparse and the way in which fishery managers estimate how many fish are being caught by recreational fishermen is inexact. Enforcement of regulations is extremely difficult; the overwhelming number of recreational fishermen and landing sites makes it virtually impossible to monitor catches precisely. In effect, when fishery managers decide to transfer the right to catch fish from a highly accountable commercial fishery to a loosely controlled recreational sector, it muddies the waters about how many fish are really being taken. Reducing our understanding of how many fish are being caught directly undermines our goal of making sure we aren’t catching too many—and that threatens conservation.

Nevertheless, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is considering shifting red snapper, a popular food fish, from the seafood supply chain to the recreational sector right now. In fisheries management speak, the fight over “allocation” has been fought before. In fact, it mobilized members of the seafood supply chain to form Share the Gulf, to make sure the voices of people like Chef Gastman are heard by fishery managers making difficult choices.

With the ever-expanding number of recreational fishermen on the water, using more sophisticated technology to catch fish, it is understandable that fishery managers want to be able to accommodate recreational fishermen in pursuing their pastime. But it can’t come at the expense of the coastal communities and all of their parts—from commercial fishermen to seafood-loving customers—and it can’t come without the proven ability of fishery managers to hold recreational fishermen accountable to staying within scientifically based limits on the fish they catch. Otherwise, Chef Gastman’s customers lose, our coastal communities lose and if we undermine conservation, no one gains.

Most of us only get to taste a little bit of what the Gulf has to offer on our dinner plates, and a long line of people have worked hard to make that possible. Those people depend on the availability of Gulf-caught seafood, especially in places like Siesta Key. They depend on fishery managers to make decisions that are fair, responsible and aimed at truly fixing problems. Stay tuned for a deeper dive on some of those complex problems, and what’s happening at the Council to address them (or not).

“MODERN FISH ACT” CLEARS CONGRESS, HEADS TO PRESIDENT TRUMP

Statement from Share the Gulf Co-Chair, Chef Nick Wallace

(Dec. 19, 2018 – Jackson, Mississippi) After months of deliberation, including advocacy by Share the Gulf coalition members, Congress has passed S. 1520, also known as the “Modern Fish Act.” The final version of the bill represents a compromise that answers the calls for action from recreational fishermen without hurting commercial fishermen, tourists, chefs, and countless others who rely on our Gulf fisheries, and without thwarting conservation. The bill will now move to the President for his signature.

“While many groups, including Share the Gulf, had serious concerns with the “Modern Fish Act”, the final version of the bill does not include the harmful provisions that spurred opposition. What the fishermen, chefs, and the thousands of Share the Gulf coalition members who advocated on this bill want, are policies that help recreational anglers without undermining conservation or hindering access for anyone who depends on Gulf fisheries.

“Fishing and seafood are important to our economy, heritage, and our way of life in the Gulf. As a chef, I know that access to local fish for seafood-lovers is critical, but maintaining smart policies that keep anglers coming to the Gulf is also important. We have seen an incredible comeback here in the Gulf with fish like red snapper, and I hope our leaders in Washington and down here in the Gulf can continue to work together to keep our fisheries strong and accessible to all Gulf residents.”

–       Chef Nick Wallace, Share the Gulf Co-Chair, Jackson, Mississippi

SHARE THE GULF SUPPORTERS HELP HURRICANE MICHAEL VICTIMS

Share the Gulf supporters, Captain Buddy Guindon and Captain Scott Hickman of Galveston, Texas, along with the Lighthouse Charity Team, flew to Destin, Florida this past week to tour damage from Hurricane Michael and coordinate the distribution of relief supplies, food and mobile cooking trailers to areas of Panama City impacted by the devastating storm. Joined by fishing Captain and Mayor of Destin, Gary Jarvis, and Captain Billy Archer of Panama City, the multi-state team hosted a charity cookout to collect supplies and resources to help storm victims through the difficult recovery process.

Many of the storm victims continue to have no access to appliances or electricity and have lost all their possessions, but restaurant owners and Share the Gulf supporters, Tyler Jarvis, Bryce Jarvis, and Chris Ruyan, are helping to make sure that doesn’t mean folks go hungry. Cuvee Kitchen & Wine Bar, Brotula’s, Jackacudas, Sunset Bay Café, and Slick Lips Seafood & Oyster House cooked for and fed hundreds of people over the week following the storm. In the face of this catastrophic destruction, the Share the Gulf Coalition is proud of its supporters for banding together to relieve suffering in the community. Please send us your hurricane relief effort stories!

The Destin Charter Boat Association and Destin fishing community at large collected donations, which were distributed to Port St. Joe on Captain Kelly Wines’ barge.

 

Captain Mayor Gary Jarvis co-hosts the Lighthouse Charity Cookout

 

Lighthouse Charity Director Scott Gordon and Buddy Guindon of Katie’s Seafood Market

 

WELCOME CHEF NICK WALLACE, MISSISSIPPI CO-CHAIR

Share the Gulf is thrilled to announce that Chef Nick Wallace of Jackson, Mississippi has joined the Coalition as its newest co-chair! Chef Wallace grew up farming in Edwards, Mississippi, a personal history that clearly shapes his ongoing commitment to promoting “slow food” and farmto- table cuisine with decidedly Southern roots. Chef Wallace combines his family farm origins with a sophisticated French technique to create his modern Mississippi cuisine that is exceptionally pleasing to the palate. He credits his grandmothers, Queen Morris and Lennel Donald for his beginning in culinary arts.

Chef Wallace is Mississippi’s first Food Network Chopped Champion, Alton’s Challenge and featured on Food Network’s Cut Throat Kitchen. He has been afforded the opportunities to present five James Beard Foundation “Mississippi Themed” dinners in New York and featured in Southern Living magazine. He’s the Founder and Executive Chef of Creativity Kitchen, a childhood nutrition-focused non-profit organization, which teaches students and school chefs how to grow their own food and use it in the kitchen.

“Everyone should have access to fresh, real food. Share the Gulf’s mission of protecting access to fresh, wild seafood for people who might not be able to go fishing for it themselves really resonates for me,” explained Wallace. “Especially when dealing with natural resources that actually feed people, we need to make sure we are managing in a way that ensures access for the future; that’s why I support responsible, sustainable management of fisheries.”

Learn more about Chef Wallace at his website, and please join us in welcoming him to the team!

UNLIKELY BEDFELLOWS FIND COMMON CAUSE IN FAIRNESS AND SCIENCE

Some people might assume that the mission behind an institution like the Texas State Aquarium would be at odds with the goals of professional fishermen in a group like the Galveston Professional Boatmen’s Association (GPBA). However, not unlike other stakeholders in the Gulf of Mexico that have found a common cause in working for fair access and sustainable management. Both of those groups have joined forces under the umbrella of Share the Gulf. Please welcome the two newest organizational supporters and first-ever Aquarium!

Share the Gulf celebrated the occasion with a reception in the Aquarium’s new Caribbean Sea Exhibit, co-sponsored by the Charter Fisherman’s Association, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, Water Street Catering, Morgan Street Seafood, and of course, the Texas State Aquarium and GPBA. Surrounded by the fish we love to watch, catch and in some cases, eat, the venue could not have been more fitting.

Texas State Aquarium’s sustainability and conservation efforts span from on-site resource conservation to angler education programs for the community, but the most direct connection to Share the Gulf is its Seafood Wars program. By bringing top local chefs to provide hands-on experiences with sustainably caught and raised seafood, the Aquarium improves consumer choices and heightens demand for local, responsibly managed fish. “As a fixture in a coastal community, we feel a duty to bring awareness to the important role that responsibly managed fisheries, including sport fisheries play in conserving resources today, and for future generations. We support Share the Gulf’s commitment to promoting fair access to a sustainably managed seafood supply chain here in the Gulf,” Tom Schmid, President and CEO at the Aquarium noted.

Galveston Professional Boatmen’s Association is unique in its representation of different user groups—its members include commercial fishermen, charter fishing  captains and seafood dealers, mainly based in Texas’ biggest fishing port. “Fresh caught, sustainable seafood and world class fishing are what make Galveston the crown jewel of the Gulf,” said Captain Greg Ball, GPBA President. “To keep that heritage alive, we have to make sure that access to the fish is fair among users, and that all users are held accountable to sustainable practices so that we can hand this shared American resource down to future generations.”

Greg Ball, President of the Galveston Professional Boatmen’s Association, at the Share the Gulf Booth
Jesse Gilbert, Vice President and COO of the Texas State Aquarium addresses the crowd
Attendees at the Caribbean Sea Exhibit

 

TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE THANK YOU FOR OPPOSING H.R. 200

Earlier this month the House of Representatives passed a dangerous bill, H.R. 200, which puts the future of Gulf fishing in jeopardy. Although it passed, many Gulf lawmakers stood up and voted against the bill. Their votes helped ensure broad, bipartisan opposition that will let the U.S. Senate know that H.R. 200 is not worth voting on.

Via the form below, please take a moment today to see if your Representative was one of those lawmakers and send them an email thanking them for opposing H.R. 200 and listening to the concerns of fishermen, chefs, conservationists, and consumers across the Gulf of Mexico.

BAD FISHERIES BILL CLEARS HOUSE BUT ATTRACTS BIPARTISAN OPPOSITION

July 11, 2018

Bad Fisheries Bill Clears House But Attracted Bipartisan Opposition
Leading Gulf Republicans Among Those Opposed

WASHINGTON – The House of Representatives ignored the concerns of fishermen, chefs, conservationists, and consumers across the country today when they passed H.R. 200. This dangerous bill has the potential to do irreversible damage to our nation’s fisheries and undermine years of hard work and sacrifice from fishing communities in the Gulf of Mexico.

If this bill were to become law, it would create loopholes for science-based catch limits, make wide-ranging exceptions to rebuilding requirements, and establish new unnecessary hurdles to use tools proven to improve fisheries management. This bill also aims to ban catch share programs, which have been essential for rebuilding important Gulf fish stocks like red snapper.
The following are statements from Share the Gulf Coalition Members:

From Capt. Chad Haggert, a headboat operator from Clearwater, Florida and Share the Gulf Co-Chair:

“H.R. 200 is bad for conservation and it’s bad for my business. It doesn’t solve any problems recreational fishermen are facing, it just creates new ones by threatening fisheries with the risk of overfishing, stifling innovation and creating bans and hurdles for proven tools.”

From Chef Haley Bittermann of New Orleans, Louisiana and Share the Gulf Co-Chair:

“Fishing and seafood are not just important to the Gulf economy; they are a part of our heritage. I love to go fishing with my family. I know folks in the Gulf are frustrated by the shortened federal seasons for red snapper. But this bill threatens the conservation standards and throws away the hard work that helped bring snapper populations back after years and years of decline.”

From Capt. David Walker, a commercial fisherman from Andalusia, Alabama and Share the Gulf Co-Chair:

“H.R. 200 places new bans and restrictions on tools like catch shares that have helped rebuild the red snapper population in the Gulf of Mexico. It takes authority away from local decision-makers on the regional fishery councils and politicizes those councils with time-consuming, contentious reviews of fish allocations. Recreational fishermen already take home 70% of the most popular species in the Gulf of Mexico, and commercial fishermen are not asking for more.”

From Ryan Bradley, a commercial fisherman from Pass Christian, Mississippi and Executive Director of Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United:

“H.R. 200 weakens science-based decision-making and bans important tools that have helped rebuild troubled Gulf species like red snapper while placing new bureaucratic hurdles in front of fishermen. Some proponents of H.R. 200 claim the bill is needed to help recreational fishermen, but the fact is, it would cause more harm than good, especially for conservation efforts and the commercial fishermen that provide the entire country with fresh and sustainable Gulf seafood.”

 

H.R. 200 WOULD HURT GULF FISHING AND CONSERVATION

*This letter signed by Chef Hugo Ortega and Capt. Steve Tomeny was distributed to our grassroots network and Members of Congress.

A dangerous bill that would hurt the gulf is about to get a vote on the House floor. H.R. 200 would undermine years of progress and hurt fishing and seafood businesses, the sustainability of Gulf fish, and Americans everywhere who love to eat or catch fish. We urge Members of Congress to vote NO on this harmful bill.

Tell your Member of Congress to keep our nation’s fisheries strong and healthy by voting NO on H.R. 200.

The turnaround of U.S. fisheries is a remarkable bipartisan success story. Dozens of stocks have recovered to healthy levels thanks to the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), our world-class federal fisheries law. H.R. 200 would put all that at risk.

The MSA was authored by Republicans and Democrats, working together with a broad coalition of user groups. But H.R. 200 is opposed by fishermen, chefs, conservationists, and consumers around country, and it lacks meaningful bipartisan support. It would harm our nation’s fisheries by creating loopholes for science-based catch limits, making wide-ranging exceptions to rebuilding requirements, and establishing new unnecessary hurdles to use tools proven to improve fisheries management. This bill also aims to ban catch share programs, which have been essential for rebuilding important Gulf fish stocks like red snapper.

H.R. 200 would also mandate periodic time-consuming and contentious allocation reviews for almost three dozen species, which distract regional fishery management councils from solving other important problems and threaten fair access to fish for all stakeholders including the public. Currently, red snapper quota is shared roughly 50-50 between commercial and recreational fishermen, but more broadly recreational fishermen take home 70% of the Gulf’s most popular fish.

We urge Members of Congress to stand up for strong, healthy fisheries and the communities they support. Please vote NO on H.R. 200.

The future of our region depends on sustainable Gulf fisheries. We appreciate you taking our concerns into account.

 

Sincerely,

Hugo Ortega
Chef and Co-Owner of Backstreet Cafe, Hugo’s, Caracol, and Xochi
Share the Gulf Co-Chair
Houston, Texas

 

Capt. Steve Tomeny
Charter and Commercial Fisherman
Share The Gulf Co-Chair
Golden Meadow, Louisiana