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

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.

 

FISHERMEN AND CHEFS STAND FIRM IN OPPOSITION TO H.R. 200 AND S. 1520

Thousands of Share the Gulf supporters—from chefs and fishermen to conservationists and consumers—have weighed in to oppose H.R. 200 and S. 1520 in their current forms.

Florida fisherman Chad Haggert wrote an op-ed for the Tampa Bay Times describing the bills as unnecessary and threatening the progress being made by fishermen. He states, “H.R. 200 and S. 1520 are largely driven by the need to fix the broken recreational management system in the Gulf. But unlike these new state pilot programs, these bills don’t solve any problems, they just create new ones by threatening fisheries with the risk of overfishing and creating bans and hurdles for proven tools.”

Other industry leaders around the country are speaking out against these harmful bills, including Alabama fisherman David Walker who wrote a powerful piece in The Hill. He explains how proposals like S. 1520 undermine the health and productivity of fisheries in the Gulf and around the country.

Capt. James Bruce, a long-time commercial fisherman from Mississippi, asserts that “congressional bills that could undermine science and harm a business I have built from the ground up, are not the solution.”

More than 30 fishing organizations from across the country have written to Congress expressing concerns about S. 1520. They joined a group of more than 175 chefs, restaurant owners, and seafood dealers, including signatories from all five Gulf States, who sent a letter to Congress opposing these bills.

Dozens of prominent New Orleans chefs sent a letter to Congress encouraging legislators to protect the strong science-based conservation standards of our top fisheries law.

In April, Chef Rick Moonen wrote a column for the Las Vegas Sun about how these bills will negatively affect his business and those of other restaurateurs in Las Vegas, which collectively serve large volumes of seafood including from the Gulf. In the op-ed, he encourages Congress “to hold the line and ensure any changes to Magnuson-Stevens are built on what works: science-based management, strong accountability and a commitment to Nevada businesses and visitors who want to enjoy sustainable seafood for generations to come.”

And in July, Texas chef Monica Pope expressed her opposition in the Houston Chronicle, noting that H.R. 200 would undermine conservation gains and advising those in the seafood supply chain that “We can’t gamble on our future by undoing the progress we have worked so hard to make.” Pappas Restaurants, the iconic Texas-based company with over 100 restaurants in seven states, urged Members of Congress to oppose H.R. 200, writing that the bill “pits private anglers against commercial fishermen and seafood suppliers” and “jeopardizes the health of fish stocks that the market depends on.”

The leading organization representing commercial red snapper fishermen, the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, sent a letter expressing their concerns.

The Seafood Harvesters of America oppose S. 1520 as introduced, explaining that, “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.” They also sent a separate letter on  H.R. 200 saying “it would do very little to improve the management of the recreational fishing industry while severely undermining the sacrifices the commercial fishing industry has made to ensure that we are sustainably harvesting fisheries resources.”

Additionally, Gulf and South Atlantic commercial fishing affiliates of national fishing organizations currently oppose the bill, raising their own concerns over other problematic provisions of H.R. 200 that would impact the region.

More than 70 conservation organizations sent a letter expressing opposition to H.R. 200, emphasizing that “…Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization should build on the progress we have made, not lower the bar for management success.” The League of Conservation Voters sent a letter in opposition to H.R. 200 stating it “would severely undermine the science-based conservation tools under current law that are essential in preventing overfishing…” Prominent conservation groups also joined the opposition to S. 1520 and sent a letter to Congress stating that they are “united in opposing efforts that would roll back the provisions in the law that have brought on-the-water success for our nation’s fisheries.”

They join advocates from Florida, like Suncoast Waterkeeper Justin Bloom who wrote a piece in The Sarasota News Leader, expressing concerns about how H.R. 200 would hurt Florida’s fisheries. Former National Marine Fisheries Service leaders William Hogarth and Steven Murawski wrote in The Tampa Bay Times about the importance of opposing H.R. 200 and protecting the current law, saying, “Rebuilding stocks has resulted in increases in fisheries yields and translated into lower prices to consumers, more business-friendly approaches to commercial fisheries management and more healthy recreational fisheries.”

Carol Dover, the CEO and President of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, penned an op-ed in The Tallahassee Democrat urging Florida’s Congressional delegation to vote against H.R. 200. She wrote, “The health of Florida’s fisheries is of critical importance to the future of our great state. H.R. 200 is bad for the seafood industry and bad for conservation.”

Join the thousands of Share the Gulf supporters in opposing these bills. Tell your Member of Congress to keep our Gulf fisheries strong and healthy.

Learn more about the bills here.