News

Seafood Harvesters Endorse Senate Amendment to Modify Costly Commercial F/V Classifications

June 23, 2015 - Published in News Clippings

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [SeafoodNews] June 23, 2015

The Seafood Harvesters of America, a group that represents commercial fishing associations across the country, has endorsed the passage of a law that would amend a section of federal fishing-industry safety laws that was originally passed in the 2010 Coast Guard Reauthorization Act.

Support for S. 1611 stems from the commercial industry’s push to reduce costs to build new fishing vessels. Currently Section 4503(c) of the Coast Guard Act commercials vessels at least 50 feet in length must fit standards of a certain class society that the industry says runs-up construction and maintenance costs considerably.

According to the Harvesters, the provision prevents commercial fishermen from building modern, larger fishing vessels to replace aging boats. This counters solving the safety issues the Coast Guard Act set out to accomplish according to the Harvesters.

Following is the Harvesters’ full letter addressed to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation:

Dear Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson:

Seafood Harvesters of America is a broadly based organization representing 16 commercial fishing organizations from George’s Bank to the Bering Sea and from California to the Florida Keys. We fish for many different species, utilizing a host of gear types, aboard vessels specific to our respective fisheries. Our organization reflects the diversity of America’s coastal communities, the complexity of our marine environments and the enormous potential of our commercial fisheries. We write today to offer our support for S. 1611. Specifically, we wish to voice our support for the provision that would amend Section 4503(c) of Title 46 of the United States Code. This provision would increase the length overall requirement for a newly built commercial fishing vessel to be classed from the current 50’ length overall to 190’ length overall. We strongly support this provision and encourage the Committee to retain it as drafted during consideration of S. 1611 at the upcoming Executive Session.

After several very high profile commercial fishing vessel losses and commensurate loss of life in the early to mid 2000’s it became clear that Congress needed to act to rectify many of the shortcomings with respect to safety regulations for commercial fishing vessels. As part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-281) Congress did just that with the passage of many new safety provisions. These included new requirements for survival craft, mandatory safety training and the requirement for periodic “refresher” courses, increased record keeping regarding maintenance and safety instruction and drills, mandatory dockside examinations, the establishment of a Fishing Safety Training Grants program to facilitate the aforementioned safety training, establishment of a Fishing Safety Research Grant program, and extension of the U.S. Coast Guard Commercial Fishing Safety Advisory Committee (CFSAC). Although there was some limited opposition to these new provisions at the time, the commercial fishing industry has come to embrace these requirements as necessary to increase safety of our fleets.

Unfortunately however, there was one provision in the 2010 Act, that while its intent was to increase safety for commercial fishing vessels, the actual consequence of this provision has been to create a perverse incentive towards less safety for the fleet. Included in the 2010 Act was a requirement that commercial fishing vessels at least 50 feet overall in length, built after July 1, 2012 and that operate beyond 3 nautical miles, must be designed, constructed, and maintained to the standards of a recognized classification society (“classed”). The Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-213) changed the effective date for the classification requirement to July 1, 2013.

While we support increased safety for commercial fishing fleets, forcing newly built vessels to be classed is not the way to get there. What this requirement will do is to add significant cost to the construction of a new commercial fishing vessel. The best estimates available point to an increased up-front cost of roughly 20% for new vessel construction if it must be classed. However, those additional costs will compound over time, as the vessel is required to remain “in class” as long as it is operational. For example, if a vessel breaks down in a remote Alaskan port and needs a structural repair, the vessel owner must not only repair the structural deficiency, he must also fly a classification society inspector up from Seattle to monitor the repair, incurring costs for both wages and travel expenses. Making this problem even more acute is the fact that there is already a shortage of classification society inspectors, so the vessel owner may have to wait quite some time for an inspector to become available. All vessel owners expect to have lost fishing time due to breakdowns over the life of their vessel, but this is unreasonable to say the least.

Quite frankly, when many vessel owners around the country are considering whether or not to replace their aging vessels, the 20% increased up-front cost as well as the longer-term costs of keeping the vessel “in class” will be the tipping point that necessitates they simply keep the aging vessel in service rather than replace it. Alternatively, vessel owners will build vessels smaller than they would have otherwise in order to avoid the classification requirement. The recent launch of a 49.9’ purse seine vessel at the Little Hoquiam Shipyard in Washington State is the first of what may become a trend in new vessel construction if the proposed amendment to Section 4503(c) of Title 46, United States Code is not adopted.

The U.S. Coast Guard Commercial Fishing Safety Advisory Committee (CFSAC) agrees that classification for newly built commercial fishing vessel is unnecessary. For the past several years the Committee has advised the Coast Guard that vessels built after the effective date should “adhere to classification and load line design construction standards but not require classification certification. ” The Committee further notes that “along with mandatory compliance programs” the requirement to be built to and maintain class standards but not society certification would “offer adequate safety standards without burdening our commercial fishing fleets with the unnecessary expense of full classification certification. ” The Committee feels that risk-based alternative compliance programs developed with significant input from individual fishing fleets will prove a far better enhancement of fishing vessel safety than classification. We support this conclusion as well and we believe that amending Section 4503(c) of Title 46 of the United States Code will allow U.S. commercial fishermen to replace their vessels when that becomes necessary rather than find themselves in a situation where economics dictate that harvesters must continue to operate an aging vessel past its useful service life, which would clearly be an impediment to safety.

In conclusion, U.S. commercial fishermen are, without question, the biggest advocates for increased safety for our fleets. Often our children and relatives are aboard our vessels. Our friends and neighbors are often commercial fishermen. And we ourselves have a considerable amount at stake given that we are aboard our vessels. But we do not support regulations that simply add cost while not actually increasing safety. It is hard to understand the logic behind maintaining a statutory requirement that was originally intended to increase fishing vessel safety but has actually resulted in a perverse incentive towards reduced safety. That is why we call on the US Senate to immediately adopt the proposed amendment to Section 4503(c) of Title 46, United States Code. We thank you for consideration of our comments and look forward to working with the Committee to find a commonsense approach to commercial fishing vessel safety.

Signed,

Seafood Harvesters of America Board of Directors:

Christopher Brown, Sr. – President
Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association

John Schmidt – Vice-President
Gulf Fishermen’s Association

Mark Gleason – Secretary/Treasurer
Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers

Jack Cox – Board Member
South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association

Brent Paine – Board Member
United Catcher Boats

Seafood Harvesters of America 2015 Summer Newsletter

June 10, 2015 - Published in News Clippings

Today, we release our summer newsletter found here.  It’s a great overview of some of the spring’s most relevant events, and an update on the Harvesters’ activities this season.  This edition gives a great shout out to two recent additions to our organization: The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, and The Midwater Trawlers Cooperative. We also discuss our National Outreach Days in Washington, D.C. when over 30 fishermen convened in our nation’s capital to accountable fishery management.

Harvesters Newsletter Summer 2015 6 10 15 copy

Seafood Harvesters Respond to House Reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens Act

June 2, 2015 - Published in News Clippings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: (202) 455-0286
DATE: June 1, 2015

Seafood Harvesters Respond to House Reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens Act

Magnuson is working, significant changes unnecessary

On behalf of the Seafood Harvesters of America, Executive Director Brett Veerhusen issued the following statement on the House of Representative’s passage to reauthorize and amend the Magnuson-Stevens Act:

“We greatly appreciate the strong champions of commercial fishermen in the House of Representatives, including Congressman Young. As we have continuously stated, it is imperative that the Magnuson-Stevens Act remains largely intact because it is a remarkably successful public policy that has restored the health and long-term viability of America’s fisheries. Overall, the Magnuson-Stevens Act is working and significant reforms are unnecessary.

“We continue to be deeply concerned about provisions in the bill, including those that would force the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Regional Fishery Management Councils to review allocations based on arbitrary political deadlines. These requirements would create the prospect of perpetual review and economic uncertainty for commercial fishermen, reward unaccountability and overfishing, and deprive millions of Americans of access to American seafood.

“Seafood Harvesters of America’s members strive to improve and maintain accountability in our fisheries. The Magnuson-Stevens Act sets strict Annual Catch Limits and rebuilding timelines, which have been essential to preventing overfishing. Catch shares are a proven tool in supporting accountability and the current law provides regional fishery management councils sufficient authority to implement them where they make sense.

“We understand Congress’ desire to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act, but if the House bill is going to be enacted, the Harvesters believe that the bill will first require significant changes. The Magnuson-Stevens Act has proven, in its current form, to be sufficient in its ability to ensure America’s fisheries are harvested sustainably and responsibly.”

Seafood Harvesters of America (“The Harvesters”), an umbrella association representing 16 commercial fishing organizations from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico north to New England. For more information, please visit seafoodharvesters.org or contact (202) 455-0286.
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Op-Ed: State Management of Red Snapper Hurts More Than Menus

May 31, 2015 - Published in News Clippings

Originally published on The Hill: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-budget/243481-state-management-of-red-snapper-hurts-more-than-menus

May 31, 2015

State Management of Red Snapper Hurts More Than Menus

Seafood is more than just a staple in the American diet; it is the backbone of our coastal communities, a driving force in their economies, and an industry that provides jobs for 1.3 million Americans nationwide.

True red snapper is one of America’s most prized food fish, and it is caught predominantly by small, family-owned commercial fishing businesses in the Gulf of Mexico. Without these fishermen, red snapper would not be available in your local grocery’s fish case or on your favorite menu. Commercial fishermen caught 10 billion pounds of seafood in 2013 alone. Because of their efforts, restaurants across the nation are now able to source more locally-harvested seafood.

Recently, the Gulf red snapper fishery has been a source of contention in Congress, as some Members wish to undo the successes of commercial management by transferring management authority to the Gulf states.

In early May, Louisiana Representative Garrett Graves offered an amendment that would grant five Gulf states exclusive management authority over the entire red snapper fishery. This action would threaten the availability of red snapper to local fishermen and restaurants across the country. This decision could also result in even more unsustainable overfishing by private anglers and set a dangerous precedent where states would have little incentive to be stricter than their neighbor – creating a “race to the bottom” effect.

This is why Seafood Harvesters of America and the National Restaurant Association oppose state control of red snapper. Such a plan would hurt small commercial fishing businesses and restaurants throughout the Gulf who locally source delicious, sustainable American seafood to millions of restaurant patrons.

Representative Graves’ amendment would unravel the successes of America’s law governing our federal fisheries – the Magnuson-Stevens Act – a landmark piece of legislation Americans should be proud of.

It wasn’t that long ago that Gulf red snapper was in crisis. Years of chronic overfishing and mismanagement depleted the stock and there was little available to restaurants. Much of the progress we have made – cutting overfished stocks in half since 1999 – has been the result of accountable management under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Today, our stocks are some of the best managed in the world. Just last month, NOAA announced an incredible 30 percent quota increase for red snapper. This means more American jobs and more seafood in our restaurants.

Undercutting the Magnuson-Stevens Act could drastically reduce consumers’ access to red snapper. The Graves amendment would hurt thousands of small businesses, American restaurants, and set a dangerous precedent for unraveling fishery protections around the country.

Keeping management authority under a transparent federal process will help restaurants across the country continue to provide locally-caught, sustainable seafood to our customers and allow our costal commercial fishing businesses to continue to grow.

Brett Veerhusen is the Executive Director for the Seafood Harvesters of America.

Dawn Sweeney is the President and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.

Seafood Harvesters Respond to Rubio’s Legislative Priorities for Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization

May 21, 2015 - Published in News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 21, 2015

Seafood Harvesters Respond to Rubio’s Legislative Priorities for Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization

Washington, DC – On behalf of the Seafood Harvesters of America, Vice President and Board member John Schmidt (of the Gulf Fishermen’s Association) and Board Member Jack Cox (of the South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association) issued the following joint statement on U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s re-introduction of the Florida Fisheries Improvement Act, which lays out his legislative priorities for fisheries management in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic:

“We applaud Senator Rubio for several of his proposals that are aimed at maintaining balanced representation on the Fishery Management Councils and strengthening accountability in America’s fisheries with increased funding for stock assessments, surveys and data collection.

“At the same time, however, we continue to be deeply concerned about proposals by Senator Rubio and others that would force the South Atlantic and Gulf Regional Fishery Management Councils to review allocations based on arbitrary political deadlines. Since the reallocation process itself can take up to five years to complete, the proposed mandate to revisit reallocation every five years would create the prospect of perpetual review and economic uncertainty.

“The Harvesters believe that allocations in mixed-use fisheries need to maximize American’s access to our natural resources and promote accountability to conserving fisheries resources for both current and future generations. We intend to work with Senator Rubio to improve this aspect of his otherwise helpful bill.

“America’s seafood supply, nobly harvested by hard-working commercial fishermen, is a precious natural resource that provides healthy food for America’s families. While the benefits of this resource is broadly shared, so too is the patriotic obligation to ensure that America’s seafood resources are sustainably harvested and passed on to the next generation. To that end, the Harvesters will continue championing a final bill that ensures shared accountability for commercial and recreational fishermen to sustain America’s seafood supply.”

###
Background:

• Senator Rubio Release: http://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=c56c021b-2b80-49cd-8661-d47802cdd18f
Seafood Harvesters of America (“Harvesters”) is an umbrella association representing 16 commercial fishing organizations from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico north to New England. For more information, please visit seafoodharvesters.org or contact (202) 455-0286.

Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association and the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative Join the Harvesters

April 20, 2015 - Published in News Clippings

Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association and the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative Join the Seafood Harvesters of America

Bi-Coastal Organizations Uniting in Support of Accountable Fisheries from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans

Washington, DC – The Seafood Harvesters of America is expanding its organization to an even broader diversity of America’s commercial fishermen with the addition of two new members: the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association and the Midwater Trawlers Cooperative.  The addition brings new strength to the rapidly growing organization that has already helped achieve important successes such as bipartisan Congressional approval of a three year moratorium extension that will protect commercial fishing vessels from new regulations on incidental discharge that are widely regarded as cumbersome and unnecessary.

“These organizations demonstrate a dedication to the broader fishing community as well as the resources upon which they depend,” said Chris Brown, Chairman of the Seafood Harvesters of America.  “The addition of these powerhouse associations reflects the important mission we have as a voice for commercial fishermen in our nation’s capital, as well as the results we have delivered since our founding last year. With an even broader coalition, the Harvesters will continue to ensure commercial fishermen can provide delicious and sustainable seafood to millions of American families.”

Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association – http://lobstermen.com/

The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association is a member organization that accepts and supports the interdependence of species conservation and the collective economic interests of its 1,700 members. The Association’s Executive Director, Beth Casoni, made the following statement:

“The Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association (Association) is extremely excited about joining the Seafood Harvesters of America.  The Association has been following the many successes of the Harvesters and looks forward to joining the leadership to help keep commercial fishermen here in Massachusetts and across the nation fishing for years to come.”

Midwater Trawlers Cooperative

The Midwater Trawlers Cooperative is a non-profit industry trade association with members along the West Coast and throughout the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska.  Executive Director Heather Mann said the following:

“The Harvesters has an excellent track record and is a proven advocate for commercial fishermen across the country. The Midwater Trawlers Cooperative looks forward to working with the Harvesters to promote accountable, thriving commercial fisheries along the Pacific Coast and nationwide far into the future.”

Seafood Harvesters of America (“The Harvesters”) is an umbrella association representing 16 commercial fishing organizations from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico north to New England. For more information, please visit seafoodharvesters.org.

Red Snapper Scheme Could Destroy Fishery

April 1, 2015 - Published in News Clippings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

CONTACT: (314) 276-1062
DATE: April 1, 2015

Red Snapper Scheme Could Destroy Fishery

Proposal puts consumers, jobs and the health of America’s fisheries at risk

Seafood Harvesters of America President Chris Brown issued the following statement regarding an outline put forward by the fish and wildlife managers from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida that would allow for a state takeover of federal waters. The scheme will open the door to devastating overfishing and set a dangerous precedent that could unravel the responsible management of America’s fisheries under the landmark Magnuson-Stevens Act:

“If this scheme becomes law, it could soon become difficult or impossible to legally buy American Red Snapper. Retailers, restaurants and grocery stores will be simply unable to provide consumers with the genuine American Red Snapper that is increasingly popular across the country.

“Casting aside the Magnuson-Stevens Act in favor of this proposal would upend almost a decade of progress in restoring the American Red Snapper – declaring a virtual free for all on the fragile fishery in the Gulf of Mexico that now supplies more than 99% of American Red Snapper. The state bureaucrats propose to take over management of the fishery in federal waters. The territory will be divided amongst five states, and will not require compliance with existing legal standards within the Magnuson-Stevens Act to prevent overfishing and rebuild the fishery. If any state is lax in enforcing quotas on commercial or recreational harvests, the other states will have little incentive to be stricter than their neighboring state – creating a ‘race to the bottom’ effect. The result will be dramatic, unsustainable overfishing by recreational fishermen. This is simply reckless and insatiable greed that in no way serves the best interest of this nation.

“Indeed the stated purpose of the proposal is to increase the proportion of American Red Snapper that will be allocated to recreational fishermen who have far less scrutiny and accountability of their catches than commercial fishermen. While most of these individuals are responsible sportsmen, the lack of real-time catch reporting and a catch management system such as tags for private anglers places an enormous strain on the fishery.

“Since 2007, commercial fishermen have lived within their allotted quota each and every year. But recreational fishermen have exceeded their quota in six of the last eight years. Excluding last year and the year of the BP oil spill – when fishing was not allowed for many months – recreational fishermen have surpassed their quota by an average of 84%. A plan designed to take quota from the commercial sector and increase the recreational quota even further will likely open the door to more unsustainable overfishing. Recreational fishermen should focus on creating an accountable fishery for themselves, rather than using politics to reallocate access to American Red Snapper.

“Not only will the proposal harm American consumers it also could mean financial ruin for thousands of hardworking small businesses who make their living through responsible, sustainable harvest of this highly sought after fish.

“Finally, the scheme represents an unprecedented departure from the responsible federal management process that has existed for decades under the landmark Magnuson-Stevens Act and has helped restore fisheries around the nation. Through a public process, the Gulf Fishery Management Council has worked to help rebuild the Red Snapper fishery, more than doubling the quota from 2008 to 2014. Commercial fishermen from the Gulf of Alaska, to the Gulf of Maine, and south to the Gulf of Mexico have expressed deep concerns that abandoning the council system could set a dangerous precedent for unraveling fishery protections around the country – costing them a way of life and endangering the future of wild caught, sustainably harvested American seafood.”

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Seafood Harvesters of America member organizations:

Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers – Seattle, WA
Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association – Kodiak, AK
Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance – Chatham, MA
Fishing Vessel Owners Association – Seattle, WA
Fort Bragg Groundfish Association – Fort Bragg, CA
George’s Bank Cod Fixed Gear Sector – Chatham, MA
Gulf Fishermen’s Association – Clearwater, FL
Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance – Galveston, TX
Midwater Trawlers Cooperative – Newport, OR
New Hampshire Groundfish Sectors – Portsmouth, NH
North Pacific Fisheries Association – Homer, AK
Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association – Seattle, WA
Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association – Wakefield, RI
South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association – Charleston, SC
United Catcher Boats – Seattle, WA

Thank you Senator Murkowski

March 11, 2015 - Published in News Clippings

While many members in both parties played a crucial role in averting the vessel discharge regulations last year, Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski – the new chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee – was absolutely instrumental. Here’s the advertisement we took out in the March issue of Pacific Fishing to show our appreciation and encourage her continued support.

pacific-fishing-december-MURKOWSKI AD

Winter Newsletter

December 19, 2014 - Published in News Releases

As we head into the holiday season, I’d like to thank you for supporting the successful launch of the Seafood Harvesters of America. Over the last several months, we have been a leading voice for accountable and thriving fisheries all across our country.

We have great news to share with you: thousands of seafood harvesters can breathe a sigh of relief because our champions in Congress worked together to avert a dangerous fish cliff of burdensome red-tape and costly fines by extending our existing exemption from vessel discharge permits. Which Congressional members made it happen? – click here for our Winter Newsletter

As we head into the new year, with a new Congress, one of the biggest issues impacting the Harvesters will be the re-authorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. I was fortunate enough to take part in a panel at the Pacific Marine Expo, where we discussed taking the time needed to get it right since the current provisions are already working well. How could this impact you? – click here for our Winter Newsletter

While in Seattle, we also wrapped up our planning session. We especially appreciate Sam Rauch, Deputy Asst. Administrator of NOAA Fisheries (NMFS), coming to discuss important topics like electronic monitoring, data collection and accountability. NOAA’s recent announcement of a new data collection plan for recreational fishermen revealed flaws in the reporting data, which is critical to maintaining accountability. The Harvesters praised NOAA Fisheries in finding solutions. Want to find out? – click here for our Winter Newsletter

We’re also pleased to welcome a new member to the Harvesters. To find out about our new member, check out Seattle photos and get the dates for upcoming events – one more time – click here for our Winter Newsletter.

I’d like to send a special thank you to all of our member organizations and associate members for your time, energy and input this year to the Harvesters.

We wish you and your family a very happy holiday and look forward to an even more exciting new year for all of us who make it our way of life to ensure a lasting supply of American seafood for millions of Americans.

In unity for accountable and thriving fisheries,

Brett Veerhusen
Executive Director

www.SeafoodHarvesters.org

Harvesters Winter Newsletter 12.19.14 photo

 

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