News Releases

Letter to House of Representatives on Huffman Amendment to H.R. 953

May 24, 2017 - Published in News Releases

The United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

May 23, 2017
Dear Representative:

On behalf of thousands of tribal, commercial, and recreational fishermen who depend on healthy fisheries for their subsistence, traditional cultural practices, businesses, and recreational enjoyment, we write to urge you to vote YES on the Huffman amendment to H.R. 953. The amendment would ensure that existing Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) permitting requirements for point source polluters remain in place when science clearly indicates they are needed to protect fisheries.

Under §402 of the FWPCA, the Administrator of the EPA may issue permits for point source discharges of approved pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides into navigable waters, which are also inhabited by many important and valuable fish species that are worth billions of dollars to fishermen and anglers each year. H.R. 953 would eliminate the EPA’s permitting authority for approved pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides discharged into navigable waters. Many of these chemicals, despite their approval for agricultural use, are known to be seriously harmful to iconic fish species including salmon and trout, jeopardizing their survival and posing a risk to the food supply.

Congressman Huffman’s amendment to H.R. 953 would simply leave EPA permitting requirements in place for the dumping of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides into our streams and rivers when they are known to pose a significant risk to fisheries. We ask that you support this amendment in order to keep America’s fisheries and strong fishing traditions alive, safe, and prosperous. If you have any questions, please call Noah Oppenheim, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, at (415) 561-5080.

Sincerely,

Noah Oppenheim
Executive Director
Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations

Leaf Hillman
Director, Department of Natural Resources Karuk Tribe
Karuk Tribe

Caleen Sisk
Chief
Winnemem Wintu Tribe

Robert Vandermark
Executive Director
Marine Fish Conservation Network

Kevin Wheeler
Executive Director
Seafood Harvesters of America

Roger Thomas
President
Golden Gate Salmon Association

Bob Rees
Executive Director
Association of Northwest Steelheaders

Linda Behnken
Executive Director
Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association

Grant Putnam
President
Northwest Guides and Anglers Association

Benjamin Bulis
President
American Fly Fishing Trade Association

Lyf Gildersleeve
Owner
Flying Fish Company

Kevin Scribner
Chief Executive
Officer Forever Wild Seafood

Cynthia Sarthou
Executive Director
Gulf Restoration Network

Seafood Harvesters of America Oppose Pebble Mine Development

May 16, 2017 - Published in News Releases

The Seafood Harvesters of America are profoundly troubled by the reported settlement between EPA and Northern Dynasty Minerals that clears the way for the Canadian mining company to pursue the development of the proposed Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

The Bristol Bay watershed in southwestern Alaska supports a $1.5 billion annual sustainable and renewable salmon fishery.  Consequently, the Seafood Harvesters believe that the existing 14,000 American jobs generated by Bristol Bay’s ecological resources should trump the short-term interests of a foreign mining company.

As commercial fishermen, we frequently work closely and productively with other industries in the marine environment. We have often found opportunities to coexist, while effectively conserving ocean resources for future generations.   However, developing a mine at the headwaters of the world’s most productive salmon fishery is not one of those places.

There is too much at risk should even a small fraction of a potential 10 billion tons of mining waste makes its way into the Alaskan ecosystem. A 2014 federal scientific study found that in the course of normal, safe operations, the Pebble Mine would destroy, block or otherwise alter up to 94 miles of salmon streams. A significant human or engineering failure would likely result in a decades-length catastrophic loss of salmon and degraded habitat for the other 29 fish species in the region.

As fishermen, we have a great respect for both the power of the ocean and the fragility of fish species. We strive to preserve and protect the ocean environment, while harvesting marine resources sustainably. We embrace accountability and transparency to ensure that we do no harm to the ocean upon which we rely, so that we can have productive fisheries for generations to come. We encourage the Trump Administration to stand beside the hard working fishermen and women who oppose the Pebble Mine to ensure that we can continue to bring to market healthy, domestic and delicious seafood.

 

Kevin Wheeler
Executive Director

Seafood Harvesters of America Voice Concern Over Modern Fish Act

April 7, 2017 - Published in News Releases

Washington, D.C. – April 6, 2017 – Today, the commercial fishing community expressed the following concerns to the introduction of a bill that exempts saltwater recreational fishing from sustainable management efforts.

Introduced by Congressmen Garret Graves (R-La.), Gene Green (D-Texas), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017” (Modern Fish Act) would hamstring federal regional fishery councils’ ability to manage the fishery sector and most species, while also limiting the ability to innovate new solutions to overfishing.

“We support the bill sponsors’ effort to obtain additional, more accurate and real-time data on our fisheries and in particular, the recreational sector, which will help better manage our fisheries. However, this bill would fundamentally exempt the recreational fishing community from adhering to the basic conservation standards that have been central to the rebuilding of many of our fish stocks. Waiting for fisheries to be overfished before we act led to stock collapses in the past and created economic hardship for the entire fishing industry. We can’t afford to take that route again. Doing so would devastate not only the fisheries themselves, but would have enormous economic impact on the commercial sectors that harvest, process, market, and sell seafood across the nation. While not engaged in the drafting of this legislation, we look forward to working with Congress, NOAA and the fishing community to ensure that we have accountability in both the commercial and recreational sectors so that our fisheries can be a renewable resource for the enjoyment of all Americans,” said Seafood Harvesters of America Executive Director, Kevin Wheeler.

The Harvesters is a broad-based association that represents the following commercial fishing organizations coast-to-coast.

Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers
Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association
Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance
Cordova District Fishermen United
Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association
Fort Bragg Groundfish Association
Georges Bank Cod Fixed Gear Sector, Inc.
Gulf Fishermen’s Association
Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholder’s Alliance
Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association
Midwater Trawlers Cooperative
New Hampshire Groundfish Sectors
North Pacific Fisheries Association (NPFA)
Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association (PSVOA)
Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association
South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association
United Catcher Boats

Seafood Harvesters of America: Letter to Secretary Wilbur Ross

April 6, 2017 - Published in News Releases

March 31, 2017

The Honorable Wilbur Ross
Secretary U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20230

Secretary Ross,

On behalf of the Seafood Harvesters of America, we welcome your leadership of the Commerce Department and look forward to working with you to ensure our nation has a sustainable, stable and safe supply of seafood.

The United States has one of the most successful fishery management systems in the world with almost 500 federally managed stocks producing almost 10 billion pounds of seafood valued at over $5 billion annually. Our members are privileged to go to sea every day from coast to coast to bring to market healthy, domestic, sustainable seafood. We honor, depend upon and live with accountability in our fisheries and transparency in the regulatory process.

Through the accountability standards and conservation mandates in the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), our fisheries have improved dramatically as the commercial fishing industry has become more responsible, transparent and efficient. Where implemented, catch share programs have ended the race to fish and enabled more flexible harvesting. This allows for more complete yields of target species, which reduces bycatch and discards, avoiding catch of prohibited species.   It is within these sustainably managed fisheries that we encourage the Administration to focus its regulatory reform efforts to acknowledge, reward and incentivize success through market-based solutions. This can facilitate the innovation of new fishing gear to further reduce habitat damage and bycatch.

Despite successes in many fisheries, scientific and management uncertainty elsewhere has impeded sustainable harvesting practices and led to unwarranted conflict. You recently testified that one of your top three challenges was “integrating technology into the Department to improve efficiency as well as the timeliness, depth and breadth of data…” We believe that the modernization and streamlining of fishery information systems is critical to provide more timely science for better management decisions. Unfortunately, existing systems are built using technology and practices that are outdated, slow, incomplete, expensive and often inaccurate. Relying on pen and paper to track billions of fish is obviously antiquated and results in management uncertainty and economic inefficiencies. We look forward to working with you to innovate and implement electronic monitoring and electronic reporting of real-time catch data for both the commercial and recreational sectors.

Because we depend upon access to the sea for our livelihoods, decisions to reduce quotas or restrict fishing are always contentious. However, we willfully engage in the MSA process and abide by the decisions made through the regional councils, which have effectively prevented overfishing, rebuilt dozens of fish stocks and provided greater regulatory and economic certainty for our industry. MSA allows for identification of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) and regulatory mechanisms for preventing fishing in areas designated as essential. We prefer utilizing the MSA management regime that incorporates the best science available, engages all stakeholders and is transparent. Consequently, we encourage the Administration to revisit the national monument designation process that unnecessarily takes fishermen off the water across vast stretches of traditional fishing grounds, threatening local economies, increasing our seafood deficit, and ignoring the federal fishery management process.

Our harvesters work in some of the most harsh and dangerous environments and leave the dock each day not knowing for sure if they will return to their loved ones. Consequently, safety is of the utmost importance for our industry and we greatly appreciate the support of the Coast Guard in protecting our men and women through reasonable safety standards. However, our fishing fleet is aging and thus less safe than ideal. We desperately require access to finances to recapitalize our fishing fleet and encourage you to facilitate recapitalization through NOAA’s Fishing Finance Program or other mechanisms as the Administration invests in the nation’s infrastructure.

With regards to trade policy, we ask that you help level the playing field for American harvesters. Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is a multi-billion dollar scourge on our industry; to the extent that one in every five fish sold is caught illegally. This problem is geographically dispersed from foreign poachers in the Gulf of Mexico to illegal Russian crabs entering our marketplace from the Bering Sea. We ask you to champion fair trade standards and implement policies such as NOAA’s seafood traceability rule to ensure that we can compete fairly in the global marketplace.

Finally, we need to ensure that at-sea fish surveys, fishery stock assessments, and cooperative research continue to be a priority throughout the budget process. This is the fundamental basis for which our fisheries are managed and require consistent, sustainable funding to ensure that we are harvesting robustly and sustainably. The return on investment for these funds is overwhelming as the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) estimates that rebuilding all U.S. fish populations to healthy levels would deliver taxpayers an additional $31 billion in annual sales and support 500,000 new American jobs.

We greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with you on these and other matters affecting the commercial fishing industry, which provides essential economic benefits for coastal communities and nutritious seafood for Americans across the nation.

Sincerely,

Chris Brown, President

Kevin Wheeler, Executive Director

Marine Monuments Letter to Representative Rob Bishop

March 22, 2017 - Published in News Releases

March 13, 2017

The Honorable Rob Bishop
Chairman
House Committee on Natural Resources
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Bishop:

On behalf of the Seafood Harvesters of America, I want to express our appreciation for your leadership in examining the creation and management of marine monuments and sanctuaries. The extensive use of the Antiquities Act has unnecessarily impacted the commercial fishing industry, which has otherwise willingly adopted responsible approaches to prevent overfishing.

The Harvesters represent over 3,900 small businesses, 19,000 jobs, almost $500 million in income and $1.25 billion in economic output. Our members are privileged to go to sea every day from the Gulf of Alaska, to the Gulf of Mexico and the Gulf of Maine bringing to market healthy, domestic, sustainable seafood. We honor, depend upon and live with accountability in our fisheries and transparency in the regulatory process. Through the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), our fisheries have improved dramatically as the commercial fishing industry has become more responsible, accountable, and efficient.

The MSA allows for identification of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) and regulatory mechanisms for preventing fishing in areas designated as essential. This process had been completed through the New England Fishery Management Council, which would have designated extensive areas for EFH protection along the Atlantic Seaboard, from the Carolinas to the Canadian border. This collaborative decade-long process that incorporated the best science available, stakeholder engagement and featured transparency was overridden by the establishment of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. With the stroke of a pen, President Obama unnecessarily took fishermen off the water across vast stretches of traditional fishing grounds, threatening local economies, increasing our seafood deficit, and ignoring the federal fishery management process.

While management decisions to reduce quotas or restrict fishing are always contentious, we willfully engage in the process and abide by the decisions made through the regional council process as it has worked to prevent overfishing, rebuilt dozens of fish stocks and provided greater regulatory and economic certainty for our industry. Consequently, we believe that fishery decisions should continue to be managed through the MSA-established processes and not be subject to restrictions through the monument designation process.

We look forward to working with you to ensure that we have a sustainable, renewable and a stable seafood supply that is managed with regulatory certainty and not subject to politically driven executive action.

Sincerely,

Chris Brown, President

Kevin Wheeler, Executive Director

Kevin Wheeler Joins Seafood Harvesters

December 11, 2016 - Published in News Releases

NEWS RELEASE

MEDIA CONTACT: Scott Coughlin, (206) 228-4141, scott@seafoodharvesters.org

Kevin Wheeler Joins Seafood Harvesters

New executive director brings extensive oceans and public affairs expertise to leading commercial fishing group

(WASHINGTON – December 12, 2016) The Seafood Harvesters of America announced today that they have hired Kevin Wheeler, of Arlington, VA, as their executive director.

Kevin comes to the Seafood Harvesters after serving ten years as Vice President and Director of Public Affairs at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, where he was responsible for developing, advocating for and implementing ocean research priorities on behalf of more than 100 of the nation’s leading ocean research and educational institutions. In that role he served as primary liaison between the ocean science community and Congress, the executive branch, federal agencies and non-governmental organizations. He and his staff also led advocacy coalitions in support of budgets for federal agencies including NSF, NOAA and DOD.

Formerly, Kevin was the Director of Federal Relations for Brown University; worked on the Science Committee for the U.S. House of Representatives; served as the Special Assistant to the Director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; and also worked on Capitol Hill as Press Secretary and Legislative Assistant to former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY).

“Our organization is at an exciting growth stage and we really wanted to get this hire right,” said Seafood Harvesters’ President Christopher Brown. “Kevin is extremely well prepared to take our members to a new level of engagement and influence at the federal level. His management experience, his Capitol Hill committee and staff work, and his years at Ocean Leadership are great preparation, and we could not be happier about welcoming him on board.”

“I am truly honored to have been chosen to lead and provide a unified voice for the Seafood Harvesters at this most critical time, given the political transition occurring in Washington coupled with a rapidly changing ocean environment,” said Wheeler. “Together we will champion accountability, responsibility and innovation throughout our industry to ensure that future generations will have healthy, robust and sustainable fisheries to harvest.”

Kevin holds advanced degrees in Environmental Management and Public Administration from Duke and Binghamton Universities respectively. Kevin and his wife Marina reside in Arlington Virginia where they are raising their children Nikolai and Ekaterina.

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The Seafood Harvesters of America represent 17 member associations and over 3,900 commercial fishing businesses operating in waters of the North Pacific, West Coast, Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. Please learn more at seafoodharvesters.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

A New Administration and our Nation’s Fisheries

November 16, 2016 - Published in News Releases

November 16, 2016: Statement from Christopher Brown, President

Commercial fishing employs over 187,000 Americans and provides $14.8 billion in economic output. The Seafood Harvesters are a unified voice for thousands of small businesses and self-determined fishing families who exercise the privilege of putting delicious, healthful seafood on America’s dinner plates.

As harvesters of a public resource we recognize and embrace our stewardship responsibility. We strive for accountability in our fisheries and encourage others to do the same. In doing so we honor both the bounty of our oceans and the many millions of Americans who enjoy seafood.

We know that the only way to ensure a plentiful and lasting seafood harvest for America is through science-based management of our fisheries. By respecting both the letter and the spirit of the Magnuson-Stevens Act – our nation’s foundational fisheries law – America’s commercial fishermen have played a central role in the remarkable success of U.S. fisheries and a 98% increase in the sustainability of our 199 most important fish stocks. When we focus on accountability in fishing practices and fishery management we make economic success possible, while at the same time working to curb illegal and unregulated seafood imports that put American workers and consumers at risk.

We call on the incoming Trump administration to join us in championing tens of thousands of commercial fishing businesses in this country. And we look forward to working with accountability-focused members of the recreational fishing community as they demonstrate their own commitment to the economic and environmental sustainability of our nation’s priceless marine resources.

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The Seafood Harvesters represent 17 member associations and over 3,900 commercial fishing businesses operating in the North Pacific, West Coast, Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. Harvesters’ members are: Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association, Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, Cordova District Fishermen United, Fishing Vessel Owners Association, Fort Bragg Groundfish Association, George’s Bank Cod Fixed Gear Sector, Inc., Gulf Fishermen’s Association, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, New Hampshire Groundfish Sectors, North Pacific Fisheries Association, Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association, Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association, South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association, United Catcher Boats. For more information please visit our website or contact Scott Coughlin: scott@seafoodharvesters.org.

Harvesters’ President Among White House Honorees

October 4, 2016 - Published in News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 5, 2016

Award honors “Champions of Change” for Sustainable Seafood

Washington, D.C (October 5, 2016) – Rhode Island commercial fisherman Christopher Brown will be among those honored by the White House on October 7th as a Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood. Chris serves as president of the Seafood Harvesters of America.

“I’m looking forward to accepting this award on behalf of commercial fishermen,” said Brown. “In recent years we’ve made significant progress in rebuilding US fisheries and advancing accountable, sustainable fishing practices. There’s more to be done, but we’re light years ahead of where we were when I got into this business.”

The Seafood Harvesters represent fishermen from the Bering Sea to the West Coast, and from the Gulf of Mexico to Maine. In addition to serving as the Harvesters’ president, Brown fishes some 200 days per year aboard his vessel, Proud Mary, based out Point Judith, RI. He also serves as president of the Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association and the East Farm Commercial Fisheries Center.

“Here in New England we have an overhang of mistrust between fishermen and the National Marine Fisheries Service,” added Brown. “The mistrust prevents us from obtaining accurate stock assessments of our fish stocks, so catch limits are set artificially low. Fishermen resent the low limits, and it builds a negative feedback loop. There are proven, constructive ways to get around this, including electronic monitoring and more reliable assessment methodologies for catch accounting, but it takes time. We’re working hard on this.”

“Our foundational fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, provides the platform to protect sensitive areas while creating world-leading fisheries management structures, new fishing opportunities and vibrant port communities,” continued Brown. “Unfortunately, Magnuson-Stevens was bypassed in recent decision-making regarding a marine monument site selection off New England, and that is a message I will bring to the White House. Harvesters’ members understand the components of sustainable fisheries and we know they are attainable. Through our widespread membership and with the support of forward-looking decision makers at the federal level, we are spreading the word.”

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Statement on the Administration’s Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument Designation

September 15, 2016 - Published in News Releases

By Christopher Brown, President                                                              September 15, 2016

The Seafood Harvesters of America represents commercial fishermen from Maine to Florida, Texas to the West Coast and north to the Gulf of Alaska and beyond. Everything we do in our work as fishermen and in our advocacy for accountable and sustainable fishery practices is based on our nation’s foundational fisheries law, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, or MSA. Commercial fishing is not a right, it is a privilege bestowed by the laws of our country. We take that privilege very seriously.

And with privilege comes obligation. A president has an obligation to uphold the laws of this land before exercising the privilege of his office. Exercised incompletely and with little regard for science – and the public’s informed input – MSA is quickly reduced to little more than an instrument of punishment to be taken to us when it is politically expedient. The Act is capable of so much more and we are deserving of so much better.

Magnuson-Stevens allows for identification of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH), and regulatory mechanisms for preventing fishing in areas designated as EFH. In the Northeast we have just completed a 10-year process working closely with the New England Fishery Management Council to designate – again, within and under the MSA – extensive areas for EFH protection. Voluntarily and in a deeply collaborative fashion, we have taken ourselves “off the water” across vast areas of the Atlantic seaboard, from the Carolinas to the Canadian border. This has not been easy, this has not been without pain, but it has taken place within the spirit and the letter of the law that we live by.

That’s why we are so disappointed at the course chosen by the Administration in setting aside the MSA and declaring this Connecticut-sized marine monument. Although we applaud the fact that oil drilling will not be allowed in the area covered by the monument, the Administration has chosen to disregard the fact that commercial fishing will also be prevented. MSA provides a framework that we all could have worked within together, to prevent drilling and other potentially harmful activities while allowing for continued, well-managed commercial fishing.

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument designation takes fishermen off the water across vast stretches of traditional fishing grounds unnecessarily, without due consideration and collaboration. It is a sad day when the creative potential of the Magnuson-Stevens Act is set aside in a unilateral fashion through executive action in favor of a declaration that threatens severe unintended consequences – not just for New England fishermen but for the foundational integrity of the regional fishery management council process and our nation’s premier fisheries law.

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