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.