SHARE THE GULF EXPRESSES CONCERN AHEAD OF COMMITTEE VOTE

** Ahead of House Natural Resources Committee markup that threatens the remarkable recovery of Gulf of Mexico red snapper, Share the Gulf supporters Captain Bubba Cochrane of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance and Stan Harris of the Louisiana Restaurant Association wrote to Congress to express their opposition to the bills as currently written.**

Share the Gulf is a coalition of chefs, restaurateurs, seafood wholesalers and distributors, fishermen, conservationists and consumers. With supporters across the Gulf of Mexico, our mission is to ensure businesses, anglers and families have access to abundant and sustainable Gulf fisheries now and for years to come. As a diverse group of stakeholders in the region, we are contacting you to express our opposition to H.R. 200 and H.R. 3588 as currently written and ask members to stand up for sustainable seafood and equitable use of federal fisheries for all of us.

On Wednesday, the Natural Resources Committee will markup H.R. 200 and H.R. 3588, which in their current forms would hurt seafood and fishing businesses and the long-term conservation of our fisheries, including Gulf of Mexico red snapper. Some of us have proposed amendment language that would include conservation language and allow science-based data to direct fisheries management. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been included in the legislation’s current form.

As a result, we ask that you oppose the bills unless they are amended in markup to:

  • Ensure the long-term sustainability of our fisheries, including red snapper, by requiring science-based management that adheres to annual catch limits as prescribed in current law.
  • Allow stakeholders and regional decision makers to have access to a full range of tools, including catch shares.
  • Eliminate the mandate for burdensome periodic reviews of fishing quota allocations.
  • Ensure that no unnecessary hurdles are introduced for fishermen and researchers to use exempted fishing permits, an important way to test management innovations and technology.
  • Set reasonable deadlines for rebuilding fish populations so that they don’t remain depleted for decades.

It has taken years of hard work and sacrifice to revitalize Gulf fisheries that anglers, commercial fishermen, restaurateurs, chefs and seafood lovers all depend on. The future of our region depends on healthy and sustainable Gulf fisheries. We appreciate you taking our concerns into account.

Sincerely,

Stan Harris
President & CEO, Louisiana Restaurant Association

Captain Bubba Cochrane
President, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance
Owner & Operator of F/V CHELSEA ANN

CONCERNS GROWING FOR THE FUTURE OF GULF FISHING AND SEAFOOD

After coming back from the brink, the future of Gulf red snapper is once more in the balance.  Proposals in Congress and recent actions by the Trump Administration are undermining years of progress, posing a threat to small businesses throughout the Gulf and to Americans everywhere who love to eat or catch fish.

The recovery of red snapper is a remarkable success story we can all be proud of. Years of chronic overfishing had reduced the stock to just 3 percent of healthy levels, but in the last decade, working together, the fishery has started to rebound. Science-based catch limits and reformed commercial management have led to more fish for anglers, better and more stable jobs for coastal small businesses, and more sustainable seafood for Americans to enjoy. The amount of fish that can be sustainably caught each year has grown from 5 million pounds in 2007 to 14 million pounds today. Moreover, the benefits of a healthier fishery are shared, with the total catch divided evenly between the seafood and recreational sectors.

But even as the fishery has rebounded and the amount everyone can catch has grown, private anglers continue to fish under a profoundly broken system. This is leading to unsustainable overages even while recreational fishing opportunities have been reduced, angering everyone – especially anglers.

As Gulf States have set ever-longer seasons, more than 80 percent of recreational catch is happening in state waters – sharply reducing the number of fish that can be caught in federal waters. Meanwhile, authorities continue to rely on season and bag limits in the private angler fishery rather than exploring new approaches to recreational management, fueling frustration and leading to calls for the weakening of conservation standards.

This year, the Trump administration unilaterally extended the recreational fishing season without implementing appropriate safeguards, jeopardizing the health of the fishery. And legislation introduced in Congress, including H.R. 200, H.R. 2023, H.R. 3588 and S. 1520, would weaken conservation standards and repeat the mistakes of the past.

Just last week, more than 150 chefs, restaurant owners and seafood dealers, including signatories from all five Gulf States, sent a letter to Congress opposing these bills. These bills would all weaken the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which has enabled the comeback we have seen in the red snapper fishery.

“Fishing and seafood are not just important to the Gulf economy; they are a part of our heritage,” said Haley Bittermann, who signed the letter and is a Chef for the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group in New Orleans and Share the Gulf. “I love to go fishing with my family. I know folks down in the Gulf are frustrated by the shortened federal seasons for red snapper. But as written, these bills threaten the conservation standards and hard work that helped bring snapper populations back after years and years of decline.”

The chefs are not alone in advocating for a strong Magnuson-Stevens Act. Share the Gulf member Gary Jarvis, a fisherman and restaurateur from Destin, Florida, penned an op-ed with Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association President, Carol Dover celebrating the Florida fishing and seafood industry and the role MSA has played in making it stronger.

In fact, fishermen from Alabama, Mississippi and Texas took the occasion of National Seafood Month to do the same, highlighting the comeback of red snapper and voicing their support for the foundational fisheries law.

As leaders in Congress consider these bills, Share the Gulf will be making sure they hear from our members like Haley, Gary and all the other seafood providers, anglers and consumers who want to keep Gulf fishing strong through responsible, science-based conservation.

CHEFS UNITE TO SEND A MESSAGE TO CONGRESS

Commercial and recreational fishing are incredibly important to the Gulf’s coastal communities. Each represents tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity.

Proposals being considered by Congress could undermine years of hard work to rebuild the red snapper population and creating dangerous precedent. The recovery of red snapper is a remarkable success story that we can all be proud of and we need to make sure that progress is not reversed.

As a chef and business owner you can make a difference in the debate on this issue.  That’s why chefs from across the Gulf and the rest of the U.S. are coming together to send a letter to Congress asking for any legislation on fishing include safeguards for conservation, require regulations be based on the best available science and include reasonable deadlines for rebuilding fish populations.

Please read the letter and fill out the form below if you would like to add your name and send a message to Congress that we can’t turn back on the progress we have made and that we want solutions that will help conserve fish populations for future generations.

More than 150 chefs from across the United States have added their names to this letter, including: Jacques Pepin, Mary Sue Milliken, Rick Moonen, Kerry Heffernan, Michel Nischan, Haley Bittermann, Bun Lai, Eric Rivera, Samuel Spencer, and Eric Lackey.