News Releases and Advocacy

Harvesters Oppose S. 1520 as Introduced

February 16, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

Senator John Thune, Chairman
Committee on Commerce, Science, and
United States Senate
512 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Senator Bill Nelson, Ranking Member
Committee on Commerce, Science, and
United States Senate
512 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510


Dear Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson,

We understand that the Committee may soon consider the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 (S. 1520), so we want to inform you of our concerns. The Seafood Harvesters of America opposes S.1520, as introduced, because the bill would harm the nation’s commercial fishermen and seafood supply chain. Improving recreational fishery management doesn’t require undercutting commercial fishery management, yet this bill is much more focused on the latter than on the former. It is unclear how diminishing the accountability of commercial fisheries will better serve the nation’s interests or enhance the quality or duration of recreational fishing in the instances where stocks are shared.

Seafood Harvesters of America is a broadly based organization that represents commercial fishermen and their associations. Our members reflect the diversity of America’s coastal communities, the complexity of our marine environments, and the enormous potential of our commercial fisheries. As domestic harvesters of an American public resource, we recognize and embrace our stewardship responsibility. We strive for accountability in our fisheries, encourage others to do the same, and speak out on issues of common concern that affect the U.S. commercial fishing industry, the stewardship of our public resources, and the many millions of Americans who enjoy seafood.

We oppose the following provisions of S. 1520:

Moratorium on limited access privilege programs (LAPPs)

Section 103 would establish a temporary ban on new LAPPs for all mixed-use fisheries until an NAS study on LAPPs is completed. It also would require the National Academies of Science (NAS) study to focus only on perceived inequities of LAPPs in mixed-use fisheries and suggests some possible “solutions” to these perceived inequities before the study even determines whether any such inequities actually exist. We strongly oppose prohibiting regional fishery management councils from using currently authorized management tools, especially when the fishermen in the regulated fishery support their use. Also, by only focusing on the inequities of LAPPs, any benefit of the LAPPs would be overlooked in the NAS analysis. Section 103’s moratorium and requirement to apply recommendations that the Congress has not yet even seen would deprive councils and commercial fishermen of a useful and proven management tool. The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) already includes several fishery participant protection requirements that apply to councils considering establishing or modifying a LAPP. Restricting commercial fishermen from developing and using LAPPs will not improve recreational fishery management.

Restricting the use of exempted fishing permits (EFPs)

Section 106 would establish a host of regulatory hurdles for approving EFPs and shorten their duration, making them significantly more challenging to use for any purpose or to renew within the applicable time limits. These are unnecessary burdens on using EFPs, which are an invaluable tool for fishermen who want to pilot new and innovative ideas to modernize fishery management. EFPs are, and have been, the foundation of conservation engineering efforts. Without this important tool, the technological advancement of increasingly selective fishing gear would become impossible. As an industry, it is how we continue to learn and, in our view, it is preposterous to deliberately limit the potential for improvements in any aspect of harvesting. For example, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council)recently approved EFPs from each of the five Gulf States proposing to manage Federal waters recreational red snapper fisheries. Had Section 106 been in effect, these EFPs could not have been approved in time for the 2018 fishing season. Section 106 exposes the hypocrisy of the bill’s recreational fishing supporters. We oppose this section, as restricting commercial fishermen from developing and using EFPs will not improve recreational fishery management.

Relaxing Rebuilding Requirements

Congress strengthened the statutory rebuilding timeline requirement in 2007 because fish stocks were not being rebuilt and were at a significant risk for overfishing. We oppose Section 104’s relaxation of those requirements, which would create great uncertainty regarding rebuilding timeframes, perpetuate overfished stock conditions, and have negative downstream effects on our businesses (increased risk, economic uncertainty) and the nation’s seafood consumers (restricted access, higher prices). Success is a function of discipline. At a time fraught with significant, documented environmental stresses on the East and West coasts and Alaska, disasters in the Gulf of Mexico, and a general lull in systemic fishery productivity, it is not clear to us how ushering in a lower level of stewardship is in our nation’s interest.

Establish exemptions from annual catch limit (ACL) Requirements

We are concerned that Section 105 would freeze an ACL under certain conditions even if scientists recommend lowering it. Overriding science-based management is a move in the wrong direction and could increase the risk that overfishing may occur, which threatens the long-term stability of our businesses and our access to the fish we depend on. We oppose this section.

Burdensome Allocation Reviews

Section 101 would overly burden two of the nation’s eight regional fishery management councils (for the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico) by mandating fishery allocation reviews for 32 stocks and six stock complexes. This unfunded mandate would effectively require these councils to continuously devote significant time and resources to these controversial discussions, leaving little if any time to devote to improving management, enhancing data collection, or developing better reporting systems. Councils already have the authority to review allocations at any time. For example, the Gulf Council recently initiated this process for red snapper.

Allocation reviews do nothing to improve the condition of a stock, the sole objective of fisheries management. Reconsideration and redistribution of fish from a more accountable sector to a less accountable sector would lengthen recovery time and reduce overall benefits to both recreational and commercial fishermen. It is our belief that management reviews would greater serve all parties than allocation reviews. The determination of how effectively a fishery management plan controls mortality should be the focus of improvement efforts. Failure to control mortality using ineffective measures should not pave the way to a larger share. Because this is contrary to that which serves our national interest, we oppose Section 101.

S.1520 includes only three sections that appear intended to improve recreational fishery management. While these sections provide some positive direction to that effect, two of them should be clarified to prevent potential harmful effects.

Alternative management measures

While alternative management measures for recreational fisheries sound promising, it’s unclear whether Section 102 would exempt such alternative measures from the MSA requirement that councils develop ACLs for each managed fishery. If so, this would undercut MSA’s primary tool for rebuilding overfished fisheries nationwide and would have negative impacts on commercial fishing businesses, the seafood supply chain, and the end users – the nation’s seafood consumers. This section should explicitly continue to apply ACLs to such fisheries.

Data Collection

We are encouraged by the language in Sections 201 and 202 regarding improving recreational and third party data collection and partnerships. Science-based management is the foundation of MSA, our nation’s successful fishery law, and we support opportunities that strengthen its core. However, we recommend that Section 202’s direction to the NAS on studying in-season management of recreational fisheries focus on how it can be improved to stay within ACLs, not on whether it is appropriate to do so. Also, we oppose using Saltonstall-Kennedy funds, which are intended to help U.S. commercial fishing compete with foreign commercial fishing, to pay for State recreational data collection activities.

In summary, S.1520 does not appear to be focused on providing better management tools to enable recreational fishermen to enjoy longer fishing seasons without exceeding their ACLs. Instead, a number of provisions in S. 1520 would restrict, constrain, or inhibit commercial fishery management. Congress doesn’t need to harm commercial fishermen to improve recreational fishery management – there is a better path forward.

The nation’s fishermen, seafood suppliers, consumers, and Congressional leaders must protect the gains we have made over the past 40 years under MSA. It is in everyone’s best interest to pass on to the next generation vibrant national fishery resources. This will help to ensure Americans have access to sustainable seafood today and for years to come. Unfortunately, the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 would not accomplish that goal, and instead would eliminate some of the critical protections that have helped many of the nation’s fisheries thrive. For that reason, the Seafood Harvesters of America must oppose S.1520, as it was introduced.


Christopher Brown, President
Seafood Harvesters of America


Member organizations:
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 Fixed Gear Cod Sector, Inc.
Gulf Fishermen’s Association
Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholder’s Alliance
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


CC: Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee members
S.1520 co-sponsors


Recruiting for Executive Director

January 19, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

Position: Full time executive director for the Seafood Harvesters of America and affiliated foundation

Compensation: Competitive and commensurate with experience and qualifications

Location: Washington, D.C. preferred

Application Deadline: Open

The Seafood Harvesters of America is seeking an executive director to oversee the non-profit 501(c)(4) organization and its affiliated foundation. The Harvesters are a leading voice for our nation’s commercial fishing industry.

Position Description

Working closely with the Harvesters’ board of directors and the affiliated (c)(3) board, the executive director works both directly and with consultants to carry out the following:

Government Relations

  • Follow legislation; engage and educate decision-makers on Capitol Hill on legislative priorities
  • Prepare and coordinate with members to deliver comments to Congress on regulations and legislation
  • Ensure the Harvesters are well represented before Congress and agencies; coordinate member fly-ins to Washington, D.C.

Board Relations

  • Ensure that boards are fully informed on activities and operations
  • Develop agendas and materials for board meetings and conference calls
  • Provide support to boards and committees; ensure that materials are prepared and provided in a timely manner
  • Participate with the boards in strategic and operational planning
  • Identify trends, issues, or activities that further the mission of the Harvesters

Organizational Leadership and Administration

  • Oversee daily operations of (c)(4) and (c)(3)
  • Carry out board directives in a timely manner
  • Develop annual budget
  • Ensure that Harvesters’ activities support goals and objectives
  • Oversee vendor contracts


  • Oversee the Harvesters’ fundraising including grants, membership, charitable donations and sponsorships
  • Strategically engage with supporters to strengthen relationships

Member Relations and Communications

  • Promote the Harvesters’ mission, vision and values
  • Serve as point-person for current members and member recruits
  • Maintain consistent member communications including regular email updates
  • Ensure effective public relations and media campaigns to include press release development; quarterly newsletter; regular email updates to members; social media engagement; media inquiries; and website


  • Strong knowledge of legislative process and comfortable interacting with legislators and their staffs
  • Demonstrated ability to build and cultivate strong relationships with funders and donors
  • Strong communications and interpersonal skills
  • Able to identify trends and how they affect the organization
  • Respectful and ethical working style
  • Entrepreneurial, innovative and thoughtful approach


  • Strong knowledge of legislative process
  • Understanding of how to work with a board
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Experience in fundraising and grant administration preferred
  • Experience with successfully responding to fisheries policy questions preferred
  • Proven track record of effectively working with fisheries, marine resources, environmental, academic, or government positions preferred
  • Previous nonprofit management experience preferred
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher required
  • Ability to travel as required

Interested parties, please send resume to (Attn: Ms. Sydney Cook).

Announcement in PDF: Harvesters E.D. Position Description 1.31.18

Kevin Wheeler departs Seafood Harvesters of America for senior policy position at NOAA

January 16, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy


MEDIA CONTACT: Scott Coughlin (206) 228-4141,

(WASHINGTON – January 16, 2018) Seafood Harvesters of America executive director Kevin Wheeler has assumed a new position as Deputy Chief of Staff at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In that position Wheeler will serve as director of policy for the agency.

“My time with the Harvesters was very rewarding, personally and professionally,” said Wheeler. “I had the chance to work closely and become friends with many of our nation’s most forward-focused fishermen, and I’ll definitely take what I’ve learned from them to my new role as Deputy Chief of Staff at NOAA.”

“It’s been a real pleasure for all of us to have Kevin on board at the Harvesters,” said Chris Brown, the organization’s president. “He was very effective in the role and we look forward to hiring another high-caliber executive director soon.”

The Seafood Harvesters represent over 3,900 small businesses, 19,000 jobs, almost $500 million in income and $1.25 billion in economic output. Its members go to sea every day from the Gulf of Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico and the waters of New England.

Individuals interested in learning more about the executive director position are invited to contact the Harvesters at

Find more at



Seafood Harvesters of America: Letter to Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson, Committee on Commerce

December 14, 2017 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

The Honorable John Thune, Chairman
The Honorable Bill Nelson, Ranking Member
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson,

As members of the Seafood Harvesters of America, we write in support of the nomination for Barry Myers to serve as Under-Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and as the Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The Seafood Harvesters represent commercial fishing organizations and fishermen across the nation, from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Mexico and out on Georges Bank. Our members are privileged to go to sea every day, bringing to market healthy, domestic, sustainable seafood. Our commercial fishermen depend upon and live with accountability in our fisheries, transparency in the regulatory process and support science-based management so that future generations will have access to sustainable fisheries.

We believe that Mr. Myers can successfully lead NOAA given his experience in directing a world-class private sector science-based company; his expertise in managing and motivating researchers and forecasters; and his success in delivering timely information to businesses and the public. Given that many of NOAA’s biggest challenges can be addressed through better management, streamlined decision making and leveraging private sector assets, Mr. Myer’s is an excellent choice.

Mr. Myers testimony before your committee last week highlighted his support for science in advancing monitoring, research and forecasting in a rapidly changing environment. Warming waters, loss of habitat and migrating species are major challenges for our nation’s fisheries and we are hopeful that Mr. Myers can leverage his private-sector experience to modernize NOAA’s fishery data systems to reduce uncertainty and help maximize sustainable yields. Mr. Myers’ embracement of technologies to advance transparency and accountability in our fisheries could dramatically improve management of mixed-use species such as summer flounder and red snapper.

We share Mr. Myers’ priority for reducing our nation’s seafood supply deficit as it is critical that our fishermen have the support necessary to compete in the global seafood marketplace.

We greatly appreciate your leadership and urge the Senate to confirm Mr. Myers before the holidays so that NOAA can have the strategic leadership necessary to address the challenges facing our nation’s fisheries and fishing communities.


Bob Alverson Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association Chris Brown Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association
Jack Cox South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association
Keith “Buddy” Guindon Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholder’s Alliance
Bob Kehoe Purse Seine Vessel Owners’ Association
Heather Mann Midwater Trawlers Cooperative
Brent Paine United Catcher Boats
Edward Poulsen Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers
Rebecca Skinner Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association
Brett Veerhusen North Pacific Fisheries Association
Will Ward Gulf Fishermen’s Association

Seafood Harvesters of America: Letter to Chairman Lamborn and Ranking Member Huffman, U.S. House of Representatives

December 14, 2017 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

The Honorable Doug Lamborn, Chairman
The Honorable Jered Huffman, Ranking Member
U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Natural Resources – Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans
1522 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Chairman Lamborn and Ranking Member Huffman,

On behalf of the Seafood Harvesters of America, I am writing to convey our positions on legislation to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) and to address the management of recreational fisheries including Red Snapper in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Seafood Harvesters of America represent fishermen across the nation that are privileged to go to sea every day to bring to market healthy, domestic, sustainable seafood. Our commercial fishermen depend upon and live with accountability in our fisheries and transparency in the regulatory process and believe that MSA has been central to the success our nation has achieved in rebuilding our fish stocks.

With regards to MSA reauthorization, the Harvesters agree with the need to replace the 10-year rebuilding deadline with one based on biology and life cycle of species. Science needs to guide management decisions. Consequently, Fishery Management Plans should rebuild populations within a life-cycle of the species, with sufficient backstops and without loopholes such as “to the extent practicable” to ensure overfishing does not take place.

The Harvesters believe that replacing the term “overfished” with “depleted” is a wise action as it eliminates unfairly placing blame on fishing for the decline in fish stocks, which are frequently the result of changing environmental conditions rather than overfishing.

We agree with efforts to increase transparency in the council process and support extending efforts to require all councils votes to be recorded roll call votes to assure accountability and transparency in the process.

The Harvesters are concerned with the top-down national marine monument designation process and support having MSA guide efforts to set aside marine protected areas through the essential fish habitat process. Furthermore, we support having the regional fishery management councils determine whether fishing should be restricted in all marine protected areas.

The Harvesters believe that improvements in gaining more accurate and timely data on commercial and recreational fishing data is critical for better managing our nation’s fisheries. Data modernization, technology development and implementation of smart phone applications could add tremendous value and significantly decrease uncertainty in estimating landings. transparency and accountability are essential for successful fishery management as reducing uncertainty provide tangible economic benefits by maximizing sustainable yields.

The Harvesters would support an MSA reauthorization that focused on the aforementioned areas. However, we have significant concerns about proposals to alter the annual catch limit requirements. ACL’s have been central to recent gains in fish stocks across the nation. We also oppose efforts to restrict the councils’ discretion to use the full suite of management tools at their disposal, including catch shares. Limited access privilege programs have been very successful in some regions, but may not be appropriate in other fisheries and thus should be left to the discretion of the councils. The Harvesters are also concerned about legislative proposals that place unfunded mandates on the councils to conduct activities that they do not have the staff or resources to complete, thus getting in the way of their existing core functions.

We are concerned with the hurdles places on the use of exempted fishing permits (EFP) as proposed in H.R.2023. EFPs have been an effective tool for testing new technologies and management schemes for fisheries, which already have significant oversight and approval protocols through the councils and NOAA. We should be streamlining not restricting opportunities to be innovative.

With regards to legislative efforts to better manage the red snapper fishery, we should not lose sight that the fishery has rebounded dramatically over the past decade, while acknowledging that the stock health in the eastern Gulf is still in trouble. Consequently, we cannot endorse the Snapper Act (H.R.3588) as currently written because it does not hold the recreational sector accountable for fishing within the annual catch limits. The commercial and for-hire charter sectors have always fished within our catch limits and fairness dictates that the same standard should stand for the recreational sector. Failure to do so will lead to overfishing and could reverse the gains in the stock that have been achieved.

We greatly appreciate your leadership in promoting the best interests of the commercial fishing industry, including protecting the healthy ecosystems upon which our fisheries thrive. We hope that Congress can uphold its valued tradition of passing a bipartisan MSA reauthorization.


Kevin R. Wheeler
Executive Director

Seafood Harvesters of America: Letter to Chairman Dan Sullivan, Senate Commerce Committee

August 23, 2017 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

The Honorable Dan Sullivan
Chairman, Senate Commerce Committee
702 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Chairman Sullivan,

On behalf of the Seafood Harvesters of America and our Alaskan members, I write to express our support for your efforts to modernize and strengthen the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), while maintaining the Act’s core conservation provisions and accountability standards upon which the long- term viability of our fisheries depend.

The Harvesters represent an array of commercial fishing organizations and fishermen across Alaska and the nation, including those who use pots to crab in the Bering Sea, those who seine for Copper River salmon and those who trawl for Pollock or use longlines to catch black cod in the Gulf of Alaska. While we may use different gear and target different species, we all have in common a desire and commitment to manage our fisheries sustainably. The Harvesters bring together fishermen from across the nation to learn from each other’s successes, as well as our failures, and collectively champion policies to ensure that we have well-managed fisheries. Our members are privileged to go to sea every day, bringing to market healthy, domestic, sustainable seafood.

As you know, 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 direct to fishermen. Our success in managing this renewable resource is based on the MSA’s regional management approach, rooted in sound science. The short- term sacrifices that our industry made to adhere to annual catch limits have yielded greater long- term benefits of rebuilt stocks that we are enjoying today.

Through the accountability standards and conservation mandates in the MSA, our fisheries have improved dramatically as the commercial fishing industry has become more responsible, transparent and efficient. In Alaska, we have reversed the culture of disregard and led the nation in sustainable managed fisheries from the Bering Sea, to Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound, on down to the Dixon Entrance. We have found a better way to fish through limited access privilege programs that have ended the race to fish and enabled more flexible harvesting, allowing for more complete yields of target species, reducing bycatch and discards and avoiding catch of prohibited species. These programs have allowed us to be vested caretakers of the resource while at the same time offering financial stability and increased safety. Consequently, we support Assistant Administrator Chris Oliver’s recent testimony before your committee that “Limited Access Privilege Programs, while not appropriate for all fisheries, are an important tool in our collective tool box, and the current Act allows for development of such programs to be tailored to the specific needs of each fishery.”

While Alaska has the best managed fisheries in the world, there is still room for improvement. 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.

If we are going to renewably maximize the bounty that the ocean can provide to our nation, we need additional and better monitoring, accountability, and enforcement throughout our fisheries. Many of our members are doing that by installing camera systems on their boats. When the nets are hauled back or lines drawn in, the cameras turn on and record the catch so that there is certainly about what is landed and what is discarded. We are now working to ensure that these real-time data are utilized to make wise management decisions. We look forward to working with you to innovate and implement electronic monitoring and electronic reporting of real-time catch data to reduce uncertainty in our fisheries and thus maximize sustainable harvesting.

The Seafood Harvesters’ mission is to develop sustainable fisheries, using accountability as the sword and the shield. We are the fishermen who rose out of the ashes of overfishing and are using the hard lessons we learned to chart a path to prosperity and environmental health. We have an obligation to make wild-caught fish a viable, enduring, dependable source of food. Healthy fisheries are vital to the economic well-being of our coastal communities, now and into the future.

We greatly appreciate your consideration of our concerns as you look to reauthorize and strengthen the Magnuson-Stevens Act. We hope you will work with us to improve the law through modernizing the data collections systems, innovating better ways to incorporate real-time data into stock assessment, while maintaining science based catch limits to prevent overfishing, rebuild vulnerable fish populations and protect the safety and long-term stability of our fishing communities.

Thank you for your consideration, leadership and support for the commercial fishing industry. Sincerely,

Kevin R. Wheeler
Executive Director

Seafood Harvesters of America: Letter to Secretary Ryan Zinke

July 3, 2017 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

June 20, 2017

The Honorable Ryan Zinke
Secretary, U.S. Department of Interior Monument Review MS-1530
1849 C Street NW
Washington D.C. 20240

Secretary Zinke,

On behalf of the Seafood Harvesters of America, we welcome your leadership of the Department of Interior and look forward to working with you to ensure our nation has a sustainable, stable and safe supply of seafood. As you review the establishment and management of marine monuments under the Antiquities Act, we encourage you to designate fishery management decisions within the marine monuments to the Regional Fishery Management Councils (Councils).

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. 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. The federal ecosystem-based management regime ensures conservation and optimal sustainable utilization of resources through a proven robust public, science-based process. This is in stark contrast to the monument designation process that threatens local economies by unnecessarily taking fishermen off the water across vast stretches of traditional fishing grounds and concentrating fishing effort into less productive areas.

The MSA allows for identification of Essential Fish Habitat (EFH) and regulatory mechanisms for preventing fishing in areas designated as critical. We believe the transparent MSA management process, which incorporates the best science available and engages all stakeholders is a far better mechanism than the Antiquities Act to identify and protect vital habitat.

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.


Chris Brown, President

Kevin Wheeler, Executive Director


June 19, 2017 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

June 16, 2017

The Honorable Wilbur Ross
United States Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20230

The Seafood Harvesters of America are deeply concerned about the temporary rule issued by the Department of Commerce to re-open and significantly extend the private angling component for red snapper in the exclusive economic zone of the Gulf of Mexico. We would greatly appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you how this rule could impact the health of the stock, the commercial fishing industry and the seafood supply chain.

We believe the rule clearly violates the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), sets a dangerous precedent in undermining regional fisheries management and will result in overfishing a valuable species that we have fought hard to recover. Accountability is the driving force for sustainable fishery management and consequently, the commercial sector has consistently adhered to its quotas and allocations. The MSA requires that any overages in fishing be paid-back in the following year to maintain the integrity of the rebuilding schedule. However, the action taken by the Department of Commerce does the opposite by rewarding the recreational sector for overfishing its quota last year.

The rule acknowledges that “red snapper is overfished,” “the amount of red snapper that can be caught by private anglers is near an all-time high,” and “this approach may delay the ultimate rebuilding of the stock by as many as 6 years.” It justifies overfishing citing that “recreational fishing generates economic activity as consumers spend their income on various goods and services needed for recreational fishing.” The economic benefits of recreational catch are dwarfed by those of the commercial sector and seafood supply chain that support the jobs, tax revenue and economic benefits of businesses that catch, process, transport, market, prepare, serve and sell red snapper across the nation. Therefore, we would like to know if the Commerce Department considered the economic loss that the assumed overfishing would have on the seafood industry, including the charter boat and commercial sectors, before promulgating this rule.

The red snapper fishery has been a success story with the biomass of the species having more than doubled over the past decade. Consequently, allocations and landings for all sectors have also more than doubled during this time. Because recreational fishermen have garnered greater access to catch red snapper in state waters, access to federal waters has declined, but overall access and landings have continued to grow substantially. Therefore, it is a false narrative to declare that the shortened federal season is creating significant economic hardship when it is the direct result of the extended state seasons, which have been a boon to local economies that support a growing recreational fishery.

The Seafood Harvesters of America support the concept of a unified state-federal season, and believe that it should require regional management and prevent overfishing. We would like to meet with you as soon as possible to find an equitable solution that improves access to red snapper, protects the local economies that support all fishing sectors, and continues to rebuild this valuable fishery to the benefit of all Americans.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns.

Kevin Wheeler, Executive Director

Testimony of Chris Brown to House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science

May 30, 2017 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

Testimony of ChrIs Brown
President, Seafood Harvesters of America
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science
April 28, 2017

On behalf of the Seafood Harvesters of America, I respectfully request funding for the following lines in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) FY2018 appropriations account.

• $180,000,000 – Fisheries Data, Collection, Surveys and Assessments
• $ 50,000,000 – Observers and Training
• $125,000,000 – Fisheries Management Programs and Services
• $ 35,000,000 – Regional Councils and Fisheries Commissions
• $ 75,000,000 – Enforcement

The Harvesters represent over 3,900 small businesses, nineteen thousand 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.

As a lifelong commercial fisherman, I can attest that after years of hard work and sacrifice, once depleted fish populations are on the rebound and landings and revenue are up where we’ve made the difficult short-term sacrifices to ensure long-term profitability. We achieved this progress by working with NMFS to design and implement rules governing our fisheries regionally, based on a shared commitment to long-term sustainability. 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 shares programs have ended the race to fish and enabled more flexible harvesting, allowing for more complete yields of target species, reducing bycatch and discards and avoiding catch of prohibited species.

Resulting from our joint commitment and the prioritization of funding that this committee has supported over the years, America has some of the best managed fisheries in the world. While far from perfect, this model has proven to be a wise investment for the American taxpayer. The return on investment for these funds is overwhelming as 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.

Despite successes in many fisheries, scientific and management uncertainty elsewhere has impeded sustainable harvesting practices and led to unwarranted conflict. Consequently, the Seafood Harvesters of America, support increased funding for NMFS’ programs that are vital to our ability to monitor, forecast and thus responsibly manage our fisheries.

I encourage the committee to provide additional funds to support NOAA’s ability to fight the illegal importation and poaching of seafood as well as efforts to support seafood traceability. Our hard-working harvesters demand nothing more and deserve nothing less than a level playing field in a global marketplace where far too many fish are caught and sold illegally.

The influx of invasive species, warming waters, altered currents and acidification are impacting the habitat, migration patterns and health of the fisheries that we strive to bring to market each day. I’ve fished in the same waters off of Point Judith Rhode Island for over 40 years and I’m catching species that I have never seen in Narraganset Bay. This tells me that we need better and timelier data so that we can responsibly adjust to the changes that Mother Nature is throwing our way.

We are at a turning point in the history of our nation’s fisheries, and I foresee tremendous growth with appropriate investments. However, I fear that budget cuts could lead to less information, less certainty and thus lower quotas to fish; which will devastate fishing communities along all our coasts.

We need more, not fewer, surveys of our fisheries, so we can have accurate stock assessments – the lifeblood of sustainable fisheries. We need cooperative research so that we can utilize the on-the-water experience and expertise of fishermen to better understand and predict how our fisheries are responding to climate change. And finally, we need to modernize the data systems so that we can take advantage of real-time information to avoid overfishing stocks in decline or under fishing stocks that are rebuilding.

Fishermen in both the commercial and recreational sectors have long offered to provide the data we collect while fishing. And while efforts have been taken to incorporate our contributions, too often the government is unable to use data from fishermen because its’ existing systems are not equipped to handle the additional input. Consequently, I greatly appreciate the committees continued support for incorporating agency-independent data into stock assessments.

Investments in technology could help lighten the heavy burden of the cost of human observers who are often required to measure catch, a job that could be accomplished in many instances by cameras and other technology. Personally, I have installed a camera system on my boat that increases the value of data coming out of the fishery by recording the catch when I haul back the nets. I hope the committee will continue to support innovations and implementation of electronic monitoring and reporting technologies that I have found can provide invaluable fisheries knowledge and data.

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 utmost importance for our industry. However, our fishing fleet is aging and thus less safe than ideal. We desperately require access to finances to construct safer vessels and therefore, encourage recapitalization opportunities through NOAA’s Fishing Finance Program.

I greatly appreciate your consideration of the Harvester’s appropriations requests. I believe these investments will produce valuable returns for our domestic industries that harvest, process, market, deliver, prepare and serve seafood to Americans across the nation. Accountability is critical for success and as fishermen we will continue to champion transparency so that we can to make wild-caught fish a viable, enduring, dependable source of food.

Christopher Brown
President, Seafood Harvesters of America

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

May 24, 2017 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

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.


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

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

Caleen Sisk
Winnemem Wintu Tribe

Robert Vandermark
Executive Director
Marine Fish Conservation Network

Kevin Wheeler
Executive Director
Seafood Harvesters of America

Roger Thomas
Golden Gate Salmon Association

Bob Rees
Executive Director
Association of Northwest Steelheaders

Linda Behnken
Executive Director
Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association

Grant Putnam
Northwest Guides and Anglers Association

Benjamin Bulis
American Fly Fishing Trade Association

Lyf Gildersleeve
Flying Fish Company

Kevin Scribner
Chief Executive
Officer Forever Wild Seafood

Cynthia Sarthou
Executive Director
Gulf Restoration Network