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.
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.”
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.
The Gulf of Mexico’s fishing and seafood tradition has especially deep roots in Mississippi. In fact, Biloxi was known as the “Seafood Capital of the World” at the beginning of the 20th century. Now, Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United (MSCFU) and its Executive Director, Ryan Bradley, have a plan to honor the state’s fishing heritage and strengthen its industry, with a timely focus on sustainability. MSCFU is now joining the Share the Gulf Coalition, which includes more than a dozen organizations and hundreds of chefs, restaurant owners, seafood industry representatives, and fishermen.
“Mississippi shellfish and seafood is generally harvested using the most ecologically sustainable methods we have globally, and targeting species that are really abundant and fresh,” Bradley explained. “We want to bring that sustainably sourced, healthy seafood to the public and help to expand opportunities for the fishermen who bring it to us—most of whom come from generations and generations of fishing.”
With its focus on promoting stewardship in the commercial fishing industry and fair access to Gulf seafood, MSCFU is an important addition to the Share the Gulf coalition as Mississippi’s commercial fishing sector can be underrepresented in discussions about fisheries laws.
“It’s great to see more commercial fishermen getting involved in the management and seafood arenas,” said Eric Brazer, Deputy Director of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, also a member of the Share the Gulf Coalition. “We’re excited that they’ve agreed to join Share the Gulf and bring their generations of expertise to this coalition.”
In that vein, Share the Gulf, MSCFU, the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance and the Charter Fisherman’s Association co-hosted a reception at Salute Italian & Seafood Restaurant in Gulfport, MS on April 18, 2018. Attended by Mississippi Congressional legislative staff, members of the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council and high-level representatives of the National Marine Fisheries Service, the event gave the coalition a chance to formally welcome MSCFU to its ranks and spread the message that fair and sustainable access to the Gulf’s fishery resources is a Mississippi tradition.
You can learn more about MSCFU by clicking here.
Gulfport, Mississippi – The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) announced its approval today of pilot programs, formally known as Exempted Fishing Permits (EFPs), which will give the five Gulf states a chance to test state-based management of private angler fishing of red snapper. Approval of the plans was announced by regional administrator, Dr. Roy Crabtree, during an open session of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.
Share the Gulf members expressed support for this pilot in a letter submitted during the public comment period with a few caveats to ensure that the plans would not unfairly impact other fishermen in the for-hire sector and would adhere to core conservation principles.
In line with a strong recommendation made in the letter, the permits were modified to exclude the charter for-hire industry and focus the experiment on the private angling component. In addition, the plans include crucial measures to ensure the experimental method complies with the Magnuson-Stevens Act including science-based catch limits and robust data collection to monitor catch.
Statement from David Walker, commercial fisherman from Andalusia, Alabama and Share the Gulf Co-Chair:
“I am excited about this opportunity for the Gulf to find a new way to manage fishing for private anglers, who have been hamstrung by conflicting state and federal seasons. We appreciate that this plan is built with sustainability in mind and ensures fair access for all, including the charter and commercial sectors.”
Statement from Chef Haley Bittermann, Executive Chef for the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group and Share the Gulf Co Chair:
“I commend NMFS and the Gulf states for making sure the final plans aim to fix the broken recreational management system without hurting other sectors of the fishery. As a chef and an angler, I want to see us move beyond proposals that pit us against one another. I know there’s a way to improve things for anglers like me in a fair and sustainable way.”
An update from David Walker and Stephen Stryjewski:
Earlier this week, despite opposition from fishermen, chefs, conservationists, and consumers, the Senate Commerce Committee advanced S. 1520, a bill that threatens progress made in the Gulf to sustainably manage fisheries and the ability to provide fresh, local seafood to Gulf communities.
While we are disappointed, we are encouraged by the opposition recorded by a number of Senators and a commitment by Senator Bill Nelson of Florida to address remaining concerns with the bill before it advances.
The bill’s proponents claim it will increase fishing opportunities for recreational fishermen, which we all agree is a worthy goal. But the reality is it offers no real change and instead includes provisions that would hurt conservation and our seafood industry. We joined Share the Gulf because we believe we can solve problems without harming our seafood heritage or the long-term health of our Gulf resources.
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.
S. 1520 stifles innovation for solving overfishing by placing a two-year moratorium on new catch share programs in the Gulf as well as the Mid- and South Atlantic , even though catch shares have completely stopped overfishing in the commercial fishing sector.
The bill also creates 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.
Seafood and fishing are core to our economy, heritage, and way of life. These harmful provisions should be removed before any further consideration of S. 1520.
We appreciate your continued support of the Share the Gulf Coalition and will keep you updated on this bill and other pending fisheries legislation in Congress.
Captain David Walker is a commercial fisherman from Andalusia, Alabama and Stephen Stryjewski is chef and owner at Cochon in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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.
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.
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.
**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