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

THE TRUTH ABOUT WHO GETS THE FISH

You may not know it, but there is a fight happening right now in the Gulf of Mexico and in Congress that could determine whether your favorite Gulf fish, like red snapper, will remain a regular menu item and seafood case staple. Fights like this have happened before, with redfish and other species moving from shared to only recreationally caught, but this time things are different.

How we divide the amount or allocation of fish between commercial fishermen, charter/for-hire captains and private recreational anglers has long been a tough topic to tackle. We believe that the question of “who gets the fish?” is one of fairness. Recreational anglers deserve access; but so do the seafood-loving public when they visit their favorite restaurant or grocery story.

Here are the facts. Recreational fishermen currently take home 70% of the Gulf’s most popular fish, leaving 30% to be sold in restaurants and grocery stores. Recreational anglers land an overwhelming majority of species like amberjack, cobia, red drum, king mackerel, spotted seatrout, and triggerfish. For Gulf red snapper, the division of quota between the recreational and seafood sectors is more balanced: roughly 50-50.

 ****

(Sources: Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council 2018 Annual Catch Limits, MRIP Recreational Landings Database, SERO Recreational and Commercial Landings Summaries, NOAA Southeast Region Headboat Survey, Louisiana Recreational Creel Survey)

*Cobia and Spanish mackerel are managed by shared annual catch limits. Allocations were calculated by landings for 2016 for those species.

**No federal fishery. States allow limited commercial harvest for grandfathered permits.

***The Red snapper recreational fishery is separated by sector. Total includes the private angler, charter, and headboat sectors.

Landings numbers are from data available as of June 2018 and do not include recalibrated MRIP data released in July.

Totals missing potentially significant recreational landings from Texas for Red drum, Spotted seatrout, King mackerel, and Spanish mackerel.

Access to Gulf Seafood is in Jeopardy

While the vast majority of recreational fishermen are responsible and want to share the resource, lobbyists claiming to represent them are working around the clock to change the allocation of fish like red snapper. These efforts take direct aim at coastal businesses and livelihoods across the Gulf – and a way of life that goes back generations. If they succeed, sustainable Gulf seafood like red snapper could disappear from menus and dinner tables across the country.

Proposals in Congress and new efforts at the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council could make this threat a reality. Two bills, H.R. 200 and S. 1520, would mandate periodically reviewing allocation of almost three dozen species in the South Atlantic and Gulf, which would exacerbate tensions between sectors and consume endless time and energy.

In fact, this question often gets far more attention than other issues vital to Gulf fisheries, such as fish biology, enforcement of regulations and habitat conservation. And too often, taking fish from one group for the benefit of another is falsely offered as a solution to other problems. In this case, it is being offered as a false promise to fix the broken way we manage recreational fishing.

Reallocation will not fix the broken recreational management system

The irony is that while reallocation could do profound harm to the Gulf seafood industry, it will do little to increase fishing opportunities for recreational anglers. Meaningful change will only come through improved data collection and reformed management to bring recreational fisheries into the 21st Century.

Fortunately, there are signs of progress. For example, Louisiana has invested in much-improved data collection that will allow fishing for red snapper throughout much of the summer with the same quota. Better science and accountability can result in increased private angler access or satisfaction without harming other sectors or the resource, a promise reallocation can’t make. After all, as red snapper has rebounded, the amount of fish allocated for fishing — including for recreational fishermen — has nearly tripled over the last ten years, and the broken management system still led to shortened seasons and recreational quota overages.

Anglers deserve a better management system that gives them more flexible access to the red snapper fishery. That’s why the Share the Gulf Coalition – which includes private anglers, for-hire fishermen, commercial fishermen, chefs, restaurateurs, hospitality associations, and environmental groups – opposes efforts to forcibly reallocate fish in favor of spending our time on more promising proposals like pilot projects to test state-based management of private angler fishing of red snapper.

We Need Your Help!

The Share the Gulf Coalition is working with Members of Congress, Gulf Governors, the Gulf Council, and others to find solutions that can work for everyone. We will encourage decision-makers to keep sustainably caught Gulf seafood on the table for the millions of Americans who don’t fish or own their own boats. We will also advocate for fixing the underlying problems that have led to shortened seasons so anglers get more flexible access to the fishery.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Click here to let your Member of Congress know that you oppose legislation that mandates time-consuming, periodic allocation reviews, as they consume valuable council time and don’t produce meaningful results.
  • Sign up to receive Share the Gulf updates and action alerts at the bottom of this page.
  • Get more involved by joining the Share the Gulf Coalition.

 

 

 

CONGRESSIONAL PROPOSALS THREATEN THE GULF’S SEAFOOD AND FISHING HERITAGE: OPPOSE H.R. 200 AND S. 1520

The recovery of Gulf of Mexico red snapper is one of America’s greatest comeback stories. It’s also part of the remarkable trend occurring across the country with more and more fish stocks recovering and becoming sustainable. In the Gulf region, the hard work of fishermen, managers, and conservationists, under the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), has increased the amount of Gulf fish on the menu, on fishermen’s lines, and in the water. But that success is under threat by proposals in Congress.

The problematic bills could undermine years of progress, posing a threat to small businesses throughout the Gulf and to Americans everywhere who love to eat or catch fish. As currently drafted, H.R. 200 and S. 1520 could hurt seafood and fishing businesses and the long-term conservation of Gulf of Mexico fisheries, including red snapper.

That’s why thousands of Share the Gulf supporters—from chefs and fishermen to conservationists and consumers—oppose H.R. 200 and S. 1520 as currently drafted.

H.R. 200 Threatens Fishing and Seafood Businesses and the Sustainability of Gulf Fish

H.R. 200 would weaken existing law and make it less effective. The current MSA has enabled the United States 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. Both previous reauthorizations of the Magnuson-Stevens Act were overwhelmingly bipartisan. But because H.R. 200 has many dangerous provisions, it lacks broad support from stakeholders and meaningful bipartisan support.

S. 1520 Is Anything but Modern and Would Rollback Progress Nationwide

S. 1520 is deceptively titled “the Modern Fish Act.” But don’t be fooled. Even after revisions, the bill still undermines the innovative approaches that are essential for modern fisheries management. The bill is largely motivated by the need to improve recreational management, but rather than solving problems facing anglers, the bill creates a whole new set of problems. The bill would take away important conservation tools, while gridlocking our regional fishery management council with contentious fights over fish allocations that challenge public access to seafood and don’t really solve any problems.

Dangerous and Problematic Provisions

As currently drafted, both H.R. 200 and S. 1520 mandate unproductive fish allocation battles and take aim at proven and valuable fisheries management tools. The bills:

  • Mandate time-consuming and unproductive allocation reviews. Both bills require regional councils to undertake time-consuming and contentious allocation reviews within two years of enactment and every five years thereafter. Historically, allocation reviews have not produced meaningful results, instead distracting the councils from solving other important problems and threatening the stability of the seafood supply chain and the public’s access to seafood.
  • Ban catch share programs. The bills would establish a temporary (and potentially indefinite) ban on new catch share programs, even though catch shares have completely stopped overfishing of red snapper in the commercial fishing sector and contributed to rebuilding the fishery, increasing safety at sea and helping to stabilize industries that rely on seafood.
  • Create unnecessary hurdles to innovation. While the exact provisions are different, both bills create additional burdens for scientific research pilot programs known as Exempted Fishing Permits (EFPs), which have long been a way for fishermen and researchers to form collaborations and pioneer solutions to some of the most difficult fisheries challenges. H.R. 200 goes as far to ban the use of EFPs to test new catch share programs, a valuable and proven management tool.

In addition, H.R. 200 in its current form threatens the sustainability of fish populations in the Gulf and nationwide and creates new problematic procedures for councils. The legislation:

  • Creates loopholes to science-based catch limits. H.R. 200 creates unclear and broad-sweeping exemptions from science-based catch limits, a bedrock management tool of the current law which has led to the recovery of dozens of species. These exemptions could significantly increase the risk of overfishing for a large number of species.
  • Punts on our commitment to rebuilding struggling species. The bill makes wide-ranging exceptions to requirements to rebuild depleted fish populations, leaving struggling species without the measures needed to fully recover in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Undermines regional control to pursue proven solutions. H.R.200 creates new bureaucratic requirements to establish new catch share programs for the East Coast. In the Gulf, it allows people with very little connection to the fishery to block a new catch share program which could stall common-sense, effective progress in fisheries management.

Stand up for Healthy Gulf Fisheries and Those who Depend on Them

Unless we take action, there is a real possibility that the full House and Senate will pass these bills in their current forms and they will become law. Let your Member of Congress know that you oppose these bills. The future of our region depends on healthy and sustainable Gulf fisheries.