**This update was circulated to Share the Gulf supporters on December 22, 2017**
Last week, a congressional committee voted to advance two bills, H.R. 200 and H.R. 3588, that seriously threaten sustainable fishing and the hard-fought recovery of the red snapper fishery, putting businesses, anglers, and families who depend on Gulf fisheries at risk.
As you know, the hard work of fishermen and conservationists, enabled by our current fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, has increased the amount of red snapper on the menu, on fishermen’s lines, and in the water. Provisions in H.R. 200 would weaken that law by exempting key fisheries from science-based catch limits, undermining the recovery of depleted fisheries, putting important management tools off limits for managers, and stifling the ability of fishermen and researchers to innovate.
Another bill, H.R. 3588, would give Gulf of Mexico states the authority to manage private angler fishing for red snapper but would exempt them from the annual catch limit process that has helped this red snapper population grow and reproduce. While we need to fix the broken recreational management system and provide fair and flexible access for anglers, H.R. 3588 lacks adequate conservation safeguards to ensure that private anglers don’t far exceed their quota, which has occurred in the 23 of the last 27 years. The Gulf States should have a chance to succeed while working within a scientifically-justified, conservation-based backstop to protect against potential unforeseen problems.
Fisheries bills have historically had strong bipartisan support. Both previous reauthorizations of the Magnuson-Stevens Act were overwhelmingly bipartisan. But H.R. 200 and H.R. 3588 lack broad support from stakeholders, and as a result, the votes last week were largely along party lines.
Hundreds of Share the Gulf supporters—from chefs and fishermen to conservationists and consumers—have weighed in to oppose these bills in their current forms. Organized in part by Share the Gulf, a group of more than 175 chefs, restaurant owners, and seafood dealers, including signatories from all five Gulf States, sent a letter to Congress opposing these bills. Furthermore, the leading organization representing commercial red snapper fishermen, the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, sent a letter expressing their concerns.
The fight is not over. We must continue to remind our Members of Congress that these bills lack meaningful bipartisan support and are currently opposed by fishing groups, chefs, restaurateurs, and others throughout the nation who value and depend on sustainable fishing for today and future generations. There is still time before the next key vote to tell your Member of Congress to keep our Gulf fisheries strong and healthy.
Thank you for your continued support and commitment to sustainable Gulf fisheries.
Gulf Chef Chair
Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance