OPPOSITION AGAINST SENATE FISHERIES BILL GROWING

In a piece recently published in The Hill, Alabama fisherman David Walker detailed why proposals like S. 1520 endanger the sustainability of seafood from the Gulf and around the country.

David’s not alone in his concern. Yet Senators on the Commerce Committee are poised to move Senate Bill 1520 forward next week.

Just this month more than 30 fishing organizations from Maine down to Florida and up to Alaska have submitted letters to Congress expressing concerns about Senate Bill 1520. While the legislation aims to solve problems facing anglers, the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance noted that “…a number of provisions would impose harm on the nation’s commercial fishermen and seafood supply chain. Helping recreational fishermen doesn’t have to come at the expense of hurting commercial fishermen…”

Similarly, a letter from more than 150 of the nation’s preeminent chefs including Jacques Pepin, Tom Colicchio, Stephen Stryjewski and Hugo Ortega declared, “We need strong federal laws…to ensure we will continue to be able to provide high quality food to our customers.”

And just last week the Seafood Harvesters of America said, “Improving recreational fishery management doesn’t require undercutting commercial fishery management, yet this bill is much more focused on the latter than on the former.”

Fishermen, chefs and conservationists agree that S. 1520 risks damaging the commercial sector and supply chain, only to miss the mark on fixing recreational management. We urge Senators to oppose S. 1520 until the anti-conservation and anti-seafood provisions are removed.

SHARE THE GULF NEWS ROUNDUP

February 8, 2018 – In an effort to keep our supporters informed about the threats and opportunities facing the Gulf, we are starting a regular news roundup like the one below.

BREAKING NEWS:

Last week, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council recommended the approval of five Gulf state proposals to test state management of recreational fishing for red snapper. While there are a lot of critical details to hammer out before the projects hit the water, this could be an encouraging step in the effort to fix the currently broken recreational management process. While the states may be best equipped to manage private recreational anglers, it is clear that the vast majority of federal charter boat captains and commercial fishermen want to stay under federal management and should be excluded from this experiment.

If approved, the proposals (submitted to NOAA as exempted fishing permits, or EFPs for short) would allow each Gulf state to set the start and end dates for recreational harvest of red snapper in Gulf state and federal waters. Several of the states would also test new data collection systems for tracking harvest. The Council’s approval was contingent on the condition that the decision to include federal charter and for-hire vessels by some states (Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana) not result in a reduced federal charter for-hire season.

Two bills pending in Congress (H.R. 200 and S. 1520) could stifle innovative fishery solutions by adding restrictions and hurdles to the exempted fishing permit (EFP) process. The ability to test new approaches at the regional level is allowed under the Magnuson-Steven’s Act (MSA) through the use of EFPs. These permits allow for scientists and fishermen to conduct research, test new technology, or pilot innovative management approaches. If those bills pass as they are, regional fishery councils and NMFS might not be able to pilot experimental solutions like those mentioned above by the Gulf states in the future. Take a moment to tell Congress to keep the MSA strong and continue to allow for innovation through the current EFP process.

Dozens of prominent New Orleans chefs recently sent a letter to Congress encouraging legislators to protect the strong science-based conservation standards of our top fisheries law. The MSA does more than just create opportunities for innovation—its tenets have enabled the U.S. to boast one of the best regulatory systems in the world. In fact, the MSA has successfully rebuilt over 40 species, several of which are essential to the commercial fishing, restaurant, and tourism industries. Prominent chef, restaurant owner, and Share the Gulf member Ryan Prewitt recently expressed his support for fair access for seafood-lovers—access that doesn’t jeopardize the hard-fought recovery of red snapper made possible by a strong MSA.

Preliminary numbers from the recent Gulf council meeting illustrate the importance of strong conservation measures and accountability. In 2017, a decision to extend the private angler red snapper season in contradiction to MSA’s requirements resulted in private recreational angler landings exceeding the science-based fishing target by 212% and the annual catch limit by 170%. Ensuring that private anglers stay within science-based catch limits is core to the MSA and will be essential to any state management program.

Thank you for your support of healthy and strong Gulf fisheries. If you would like more information or to get involved, please email the coalition directly or join the coalition here.