News

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

At sea, under the eyes of cameras, fishermen work as the government monitors catch

May 17, 2017 - Published in News Clippings

Article from Providence Journal, May 16, 2017

At Sea, Under the Eyes of Cameras, Fisherman Work as the Government Monitors Catch

By Alex Kuffner
Journal Staff Writer

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — Chris Brown has grown used to the five video cameras that record every move he and his two crew members make aboard the Proud Mary.

Since installing the equipment in January on the 45-foot otter trawler, whenever Brown steams out of Galilee in search of flounder and other groundfish in the Atlantic Ocean waters off Rhode Island, the electronic monitoring system kicks on.

And as Brown engages the boat’s hydraulics to haul in its nets, the cameras track everything he and his crew catch, all the fish they keep and all the fish they discard over the side.

The cameras may seem intrusive, but then Brown has an easy answer when asked about them.

“I’d much rather have a camera overhead than an observer under foot,” he said.

Brown is one of three Rhode Island fishermen who have signed on to a program that is testing out electronic surveillance as an alternative to human monitors that the federal government requires to be on board one in every seven fishing trips in the Northeast in an effort to stamp out overfishing.

The new program being led by The Nature Conservancy offers the potential for closer observation of commercial fishing, enhancing compliance with quotas and deterring misreporting.

Its supporters say it also provides more accurate data that will lead to better science and better regulations, all with the aim of supporting a fishing industry that is sustainable for years to come.

“There’s a mismatch between what fishermen say they see on the water and what the science says,” said Christopher McGuire, marine program director with The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “We’re trying to bridge that gap.”

Electronic monitoring on fishing boats is nothing new. It’s been in use in British Columbia, in Canada, for more than 15 years, was eventually adopted by American fisheries in the Pacific Northwest, and was tested by Cape Cod fishermen as far back as 2005.

The Nature Conservancy started experimenting with the technology in 2013 as it became apparent that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would stop paying for human at-sea monitors and would instead require fishermen to cover costs that on any given fishing trip can run up to $710 a day.

The group started out with a handful of boats in Maine and expanded the pilot program to Massachusetts last year after winning permission from NOAA Fisheries to replace human observers with the camera systems on a trial basis.

It expanded to Rhode Island this year after Brown, Rodman Sykes and John Dougherty, who all fish out of Galilee, expressed interest in participating. In total, 14 boats are now taking part and collecting data on every one of their trips.

That type of increase in the amount of information being submitted to the government could lead to a better system of quotas, John Bullard, regional administrator of NOAA Fisheries, has said.

“So while at-sea monitoring is a cost, [electronic monitoring] could be an investment,” he said in a recent statement.

Mike Russo, a Provincetown fisherman who joined the trial program last year, goes a step further, saying that video evidence will prove his contention that fish stocks are in better shape than the government estimates.

“The sooner you have 100 percent accountability, the sooner quotas go up,” Russo said. “It takes the uncertainty out of everything.”

But not everyone has embraced electronic monitoring. Some fishermen, already tired of tighter regulation of their industry, have bucked against the “Big Brother” aspect of being recorded around the clock. Others are resistant because they may underreport the amount of fish they discard that exceeds their quotas, said McGuire.

There are also questions about the effectiveness of the technology itself. The fisheries on the West Coast where electronic monitoring has been successful generally have few species. In New England, there are many more and some are difficult to tell apart, said Anna Malek Mercer, executive director of the Commercial Fisheries Research Foundation, an industry-funded group based at the University of Rhode Island that has not taken a position on electronic monitoring.

In the first couple of years of The Nature Conservancy program, accuracy was an issue, with sometimes sizable differences in discards reported using the video monitoring system versus human observers. But as the system has been refined, those differences have shrunk.

McGuire is working with scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on fish recognition software that could improve accuracy and also reduce one of the main cost drivers of the electronic system — the amount of time it takes reviewers to go through all the data that’s collected from the boats and mailed to them on hard drives.

As it stands, installing an electronic system costs up to $8,000 and reviewing an average trip is an additional $300 or so, all paid for under the test program by The Nature Conservancy. Those costs will come down as more improvements are made, McGuire argues.

“But the cost of human observers will never go down,” he said. “It will be the same, or more.”

On a recent afternoon, Brown showed U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse around the Proud Mary. He explained how the system works, and Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat who has sponsored legislation to enhance ocean protections, said he would look into allocating funds for expanding electronic monitoring.

The new system could allow real-time data review, an antidote, said Brown, to the current regulatory regime that can be too reliant on outdated information on fish abundance. That is especially important in an era of climate change as ocean temperatures rise and more warm-water species move into Northeast waters.

“In order to make it as an industry, we have to inform scientists, so they can make a change immediately and say, ’Go get ’em,’” said Brown, who is president of the Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association and executive director of Seafood Harvesters of America.

He knows the opposition to increased monitoring is strong, but he hopes to win a few converts.

“The older you get, you worry about your legacy,” said Brown, who is 59 and has been a commercial fisherman since 1978. “You want to be judged favorably by what you leave behind.”

akuffner@providencejournal.com / (401) 277-7457

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

Amended policy platform showing changes

December 21, 2016 - Published in Uncategorized

At the November 11, 2016 Member Meeting in Charleston, the Policy Committee voted to amend the Harvesters’ policy platform to include specific mention of cooperative research, ecosystem-based management and climate-related effects on fisheries.

The changes are highlighted in blue font in this PDF of the policy platform: amended-policy-platform-showing-changes

 

 

 

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