News Releases and Advocacy

Seafood Harvesters Applaud House Passage of Coast Guard Authorization Act

November 27, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

MEDIA CONTACT: Leigh Habegger, leigh@seafoodharvesters.org, (336) 414-2681

Seafood Harvesters Applaud House Passage of Coast Guard Authorization Act

(WASHINGTON – November 27, 2018) On Tuesday night, the House of Representatives passed the Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018, and commercial fishermen across the country breathed a sigh of relief. This bill, identical to one that passed the Senate on November 14th, provides owners and operators of commercial fishing vessels and vessels under 79’ long with long-sought relief from unnecessary and burdensome regulations for incidental discharges and provides updates to safety compliance measures. House passage of this bill signals the strong bipartisan support it enjoys in both chambers of Congress.

Seafood Harvesters of America applauds the work done by Representatives and Senators alike to see this bill to the finish line. “This legislation authorizes our seagoing partners in the Coast Guard to continue their important safety and enforcement work, it provides for the EPA to continue critical scientific research, it maintains strict environmental protections for our waters, and it frees up our members from unwarranted and unreasonable regulations,” said Leigh Habegger, Executive Director of Seafood Harvesters of America, a national group representing commercial fishermen. “We are grateful for the hard work of our champions in both the House and Senate and we urge President Trump to sign it into law in short order.”

##

The Seafood Harvesters’ earlier statement on Senate passage of the Coast Guard Authorization bill can be found here.

The Seafood Harvesters of America represents 17 commercial fishing organizations from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Mexico and north to New England. Find more at www.seafoodharvesters.org.

Seafood Harvesters Applaud Passage of Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018

November 14, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

For immediate release: November 14, 2018

Media contact: Leigh Habegger, Executive Director, (336) 414-2681, leigh@seafoodharvesters.org

Seafood Harvesters Applaud Passage of Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018

Today, the Senate passed the “Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2018.” This bill updates and authorizes U.S. Coast Guard activities and provides long-sought relief for the fishing industry by providing a permanent exemption for fishing vessels from the Environmental Protection Agency’s incidental discharge regulations. It also increases the maximum length for vessels that must be maintained to class, and provides for regional and fishery specific alternative safety compliance programs to be developed.

“The passage of this bill is a breakthrough for the commercial fishing industry and it’s been a long time coming,” said Chris Brown, President of the Seafood Harvesters of America. “We are grateful to the numerous Senators who worked hard to permanently exempt fishing vessels from onerous regulations that would require us to monitor and log any water running off boat decks. We now have regulatory certainty for our businesses instead of operating under stopgap exemptions to these regulations. We applaud the Senate for passing this bill that also addresses our concerns with vessel classification and the development of the alternative safety compliance program.

The bipartisan nature of this bill is reflected in its maintenance of strong environmental protections for our nation’s waters, along with the reduction of nonsensical regulatory burdens on the commercial fishing industry. The bill effectively safeguards our waters from invasive species and provides the Great Lakes states flexibility with regards to the discharge of ballast water standards. Additionally, the bill increases the maximum length of vessels that must be maintained to vessel class standards for newly built vessels and includes language that allows alternative safety compliance programs to be developed in regional and fishery specific manners for existing vessels.

Seafood Harvesters Executive Director, Leigh Habegger, applauded the bipartisan bill, noting that the national commercial fishermen’s organization that represents over 3,900 small businesses and $1.25 billion in economic output has been pushing for enactment of a USCG reauthorization bill for five years. “Nothing unites fishermen more than the waters we navigate and the commitment we share to protect them.” Habegger said. “With the passage of this bill, fishermen are freed from the fear of having to remain tied to the docks from erroneous regulations. They can now focus on responsibly harvesting domestic seafood enjoyed by millions of consumers every day. This bill took a lot of work and we appreciate the sincere efforts and ongoing negotiations on both sides of the aisle. We look forward to working with the EPA and the Coast Guard through the implementation process.”

The Seafood Harvesters of America represents 17 fishing organizations from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Mexico and north to New England. Find more at www.seafoodharvesters.org.

### 

Seafood Harvesters Letter on Coast Guard Reauthorization

November 14, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

November 14, 2018

Dear Chairman Thune, Chairman Barrasso, Ranking Member Nelson, and Ranking Member Carper,

We understand that the Senate will soon consider the Coast Guard Reauthorization bill, which contains provisions vital to the commercial fishing industry. We urge the Senate to pass this bill.

We strongly support the bill’s permanent exemption for small vessels and fishing vessels from incidental discharge regulations and believe it is a common-sense solution to the regulatory uncertainty we have faced in past years. A permanent exemption for these vessels will enable fishermen around the country to focus on providing the country with sustainable, wild caught seafood rather than applying for permits for water that runs off boat decks or navigating burdensome red tape. This permanent exemption provides the much-needed regulatory assurance that we will not have to worry about non-compliance every few years when temporary exemptions expire.

We are also very supportive of the changes to vessel classification for newly built vessels and the Coast Guard’s alternative safety compliance program for existing vessels. By increasing the length of newly built vessels to be built to class standards but not maintained to such standards, the Senate has provided a pathway for vessel owners to replace old and outdated vessels with new, safer, and more modern vessels. Additionally, vessel owners will effectively avoid incurring additional costs associated with maintaining boats to class standards that provide few, if any, additional safety benefits. We are also very pleased to see language in this bill that allows for alternative safety compliance programs to be developed in specific regions for specific fisheries. Having the ability to tailor these programs to specific fisheries will help improve safety in these fisheries while avoiding unnecessary blanket rules and regulations. Though we supported language that directs the USCG to work together with the fishing industry when the alternative compliance program is being developed, we believe the current elements in the Senate bill go a long way to developing a useful vessel safety program for the existing U.S. commercial fishing fleet.

We applaud the strong bipartisan work that has gone into crafting this bill. The result of this hard work is a bill which retains strong environmental protections safeguarding our nation’s waters while simultaneously providing industry relief from burdensome and unnecessary regulations.

Ensuring that our nation’s waters and aquatic habitats, both fresh and marine, remain healthy and productive is critical for every single fishing business around the country – our businesses depend on it. We appreciate the work to remain committed to strong environmental protections – addressing concerns about invasive species, minimizing spillage and leaks into our waters, and tackling pollutants in our waters – while simultaneously providing regulatory relief for fishing businesses.

We are deeply grateful to all of the Senators who have crafted a commonsense Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill that protects our environment and our businesses. We hope to see it pass in short time. Thousands of seafood harvesters across the country will breathe a sigh of relief when this bill is signed into law.

 

Sincerely,

Christopher Brown, President

Seafood Harvesters of America

 

cc:

Senate Commerce Majority Members

Senate Commerce Minority Members

Senate Environment and Public Works Majority Members

Senate Environment and Public Works Minority Members

Seafood Harvesters Oppose H.R. 200

July 9, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

Dear Member of Congress:

We understand that H.R. 200, the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,” is on the schedule for floor debate and a vote on Wednesday afternoon. The Seafood Harvesters of America (SHA) remains staunchly opposed to this bill as it would do very little to improve the management of the recreational fishing industry while severely undermining the sacrifices the commercial fishing industry has made to ensure that we are sustainably harvesting fisheries resources.

The 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.

In addition to the threats posed by H.R. 200 as we’ve outlined in previous letters (below), we are concerned with a proposed amendment to H.R. 200 that will be debated during the floor vote. Specifically, we are concerned with Amendment #26 which directs the General Accountability Office to develop a report to Congress on the “resource rent” of Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPPs) in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast, and examine “fiduciary conflicts of interest” on these Regional Fishery Management Councils. First, by studying only LAPPs without also studying recreational fishing and non-LAPP fisheries, this language unfairly singles out LAPPs and is aimed at attacking these successful programs. Commercial fishermen already pay for their commercial permits, quota, licenses, vessel registration, business taxes, observer costs, among other costs. On top of that, fishermen in LAPPs pay an additional fee to recover costs of administering the program. There is no reason to limit an analysis of the fishing value extracted to LAPPs and such a biased analysis would lead to false conclusions. Second, the Regional Fishery Management Councils were purposely created to involve fishery stakeholders from all sectors in the Council process to guide policy and regulations. The process by which Council Members are appointed is thorough and well-vetted, and already requires financial disclosure of their fishing interests. This language shows a misunderstanding of the Council structure designed within the Magnuson Stevens Act (MSA). Targeting commercial and charter fishermen representatives on Councils for these two regions would not only undermine the intended Council appointment process to encourage stakeholder participation in management of our fisheries resources, but set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the country.

As we’ve outlined in our previous letters, the Harvesters remain opposed to H.R. 200 because of a number of sections that pose a direct threat to sustainable fisheries management:

  • H. R. 200 risks overfishing and imperils rebuilding of overfished species
    • Despite significant flexibility already incorporated into the MSA, Section 303 establishes multiple exceptions to the rebuilding timeline. Congress previously strengthened the rebuilding timeline requirements because many fish stocks were not recovering and were at risk of continued overfishing. Without this statutory standard, rebuilding timelines could vary dramatically, perpetuating depleted stock conditions and harming our businesses’ bottom lines.
    • Overfishing has been illegal since the MSA was first signed into law in 1976, but the 2007 requirement for annual catch limits (ACLs) truly put an end to the practice. Section 204 waives the requirement for ACLs for a large number of species, including virtually all bycatch species and many fish that are caught in international waters, significantly raising the risk of overfishing.
    • Repealing MSA Section 407 entirely (Section 306 in H.R. 200) would remove backstops against recreational quota overages and allocations for Gulf of Mexico red snapper which, combined with H.R. 200’s sweeping ACL exemptions, increases the risk of overfishing and makes it difficult for management bodies to allocate quota to prevent quota overages.
  • H. R. 200 hinders Councils’ ability to manage our fishery resources
    • Councils already have the flexibility to conduct allocation reviews as necessary, so requiring that the South Atlantic and Gulf Councils conduct a review of commercial and recreational allocations every 5 years (Section 202) is duplicative, costly, and would effectively prevent these Councils from having the time and money to manage the resource (i.e. stock assessments, habitat management, among other responsibilities).
    • Section 304 establishes a suite of procedures that would make the use of Exempted Fishing Permits (EFPs) nearly impossible, removing a pathway for Councils to work with industry to develop and test innovative gear, fishing, and management technologies aimed at improving resource management. Additionally, this Section bans the use of EFPs to test for Limited Access Privilege Programs (LAPPs).
  • H. R. 200 would impose unnecessary Congressional interference
    • Fishermen are deeply involved in the development of catch share programs, which often take years of deliberation with extensive public input. Under current law, Councils can require referenda on these programs at their discretion. Mandating additional referenda and specifying who should be allowed to vote in them is unnecessarily intrusive to the Council process and creates undue hurdles to catch share development (Section 205). While we recognize that a catch share program may not be appropriation for every fishery, we feel strongly that this management tool should remain a viable option.

We are disappointed to see this bill move along near partisan lines. The reauthorization of the MSA has traditionally been a bipartisan effort that advances the sustainability of our nation’s fisheries. Instead, what we see today is a partisan effort to advance the interests of the recreational fishing industry at the expense and to the detriment of the commercial fishing industry.

As thousands of commercial fishermen around the country stand in opposition to this bill, we urge House Leadership to reconsider bringing this bill to the House floor for a vote. We are serve as a direct connection to the ocean for many inland citizens and we take our responsibility as stewards of the ocean very seriously. We stand ready to work with Mr. Young and others to develop a bill that works for all sectors and progresses fisheries management across the board.

We appreciate your consideration of our request. Please reach out to our Executive Director, Leigh Habegger, should you have any further questions.

Sincerely,

 

 

Christopher Brown, President

 

Member Organizations

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

Seafood Harvesters Welcome Leigh Habegger as New Executive Director

May 17, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

(WASHINGTON – May 17, 2018) Seafood Harvesters of America announced today that Leigh Habegger would become the organization’s new executive director.

Most recently, Ms. Habegger served as the Senior Manager of External Affairs for Restore America’s Estuaries. In this role, she advocated for policies that conserve our nation’s estuaries and encourage the sustainable use of our natural resources. Previously, she worked as a lobbyist on fisheries and maritime policy, facilitated work related to highly migratory species, and served as a Knauss Fellow for Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (ME-01) covering oceans, coastal, and fisheries issues.

Ms. Habegger steps into the role vacated by Kevin Wheeler, who recently departed the Seafood Harvesters to take a position as Deputy Chief of Staff at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Leigh brings strong fisheries policy experience, along with great energy and a solid understanding of our members and the issues they face,” said Seafood Harvesters President Chris Brown. “She’ll be an excellent addition to our team as we broaden the scope and scale of our policy work in coming years.”

The Seafood Harvesters represent 16 leading commercial fishing organizations whose members operate from the Bering Sea to the Gulf of Mexico and north to New England. Interested readers can learn more at www.seafoodharvesters.org.

### 

Seafood Harvesters Comment Letter on the Administration’s Oil and Gas Leasing Program

March 9, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

March 9, 2018

The Honorable Ryan Zinke
Secretary
United States Dept. of the Interior
1849 C Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20240
Ms. Kelly Hammerle
National OCS Oil & Gas Leasing Program
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
45600 Woodland Road
Sterling, VA 20166-9216

Dear Secretary Zinke and Ms. Hammerle:

We write to express our deep concern about the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024, and to offer our assistance as you advance your outreach and revision processes.

In our view the Draft Proposed Program released in January gives unbalanced weight to energy production and under-emphasizes a critical directive of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, namely its directive to consider “economic, social, and environmental values of the renewable and nonrenewable resources contained in the outer Continental Shelf, and the potential impacts of oil and gas exploration on the resource values of the outer Continental Shelf and the marine, coastal and human environments” (43 U.S.C. 1344(a)(2)(f).

Those are the environments where the Seafood Harvesters live and work. We represent over 3,900 small businesses, nineteen thousand jobs, almost $500 million in income and $1.25 billion in total economic output. Our members go to sea every day from Alaska to California, Texas to Florida, and from the Carolinas to New England. They bring to market the healthy, domestic, sustainable seafood that feeds America.

Because we represent such diverse fleets—and vessels operated by thousands of independent men and women—we focus on issues of common concern that transcend parochial or partisan politics. Nothing unites us more than the waters we navigate and the commitment we share to protect them. In a very real sense, America’s renewable fish stocks and the habitats that sustain them are national treasures. The species we catch are unchanged for millennia, and their stewardship is a privilege and duty we take seriously. Responsibly managed and harvested, our nation’s “strategic protein reserve” can support us indefinitely.

By contrast, oil supplies are nonrenewable, and offshore exploration poses significant dangers. Where seafloor drilling takes place, leaks and spills occur, and when crude oil is transported by tanker, risks of vessel disablement, accidental groundings and collisions are ever-present.

Offshore drilling threatens fish and fishing jobs, irreplaceable habitat, and the heritage and economies of coastal communities. It also threatens the proven sustainability of many U.S. fisheries that sacrifices and investments made by fishermen have helped to produce. While oil spills barely register on balance sheets of the corporations responsible, they can devastate those least able to withstand them: America’s fishing families and the species we harvest.

While acknowledging the obvious—that our industry is dependent on petroleum products—it is also true that maximizing the exploitation of fossil resources wherever they can be found is an outdated approach that does little to create a more promising future. This is less a political statement than a recognition that our national needs and values are changing. Rapid advances in renewable energy production will increasingly provide policymakers with new opportunities to prioritize food security and rational climate policies over risky oil exploration and large-scale corporate profits.

Plainly put, our nation’s wealth can no longer be measured solely in terms of GDP. It must also be evaluated in terms of accumulated knowledge and our ability to protect, nurture and support our citizens and our natural resources.

It is our understanding that only one meeting seeking public comment has been held in each affected state since release of the Draft Proposed Program. If your goal is to seek meaningful input from coastal communities and the businesses that operate there, then something greater than a minimum-defensible level of public outreach will be required. Because the Seafood Harvesters operate throughout the United States, we are equipped to help as you seek to better understand the “marine, coastal and human environments” most likely to be impacted by offshore oil exploration and drilling.

Please consider us ready to assist your outreach efforts as you continue to revise the leasing program.

Sincerely,

Christopher Brown, President

Our Mission and Members

“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.”

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 Assoc.
South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association
United Catcher Boats

Seafood Harvesters Letter Regarding Wicker Amendment to S. 1520

February 27, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

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

 

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

 

Dear Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson,

We understand that Sen. Roger Wicker may offer an amendment in the nature of a substitute at the forthcoming markup of the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017 (S. 1520). The Seafood Harvesters’ of America (“SHA”) previously wrote to you to express concerns about that legislation (see attached February 16th letter). We again write to say that while we appreciate the efforts to revise the legislation the proposed changes fail to adequately address our concerns.

Specifically, SHA:

  • Opposes mandatory allocation reviews for fish stocks. (Sec. 101) The revised language is limited to the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. These mandatory reviews only serve to burden councils by imposing costly requirements on them. Section 101 would require the South Atlantic and Gulf Councils to set aside their annual work setting catch limits and seasons for all of their managed fisheries and developing amendments to those fisheries to improve their management in order to conduct allocation reviews on all of their mixed-use fisheries. Allocation reviews should never take priority over seasonal fishery management work and management improvements of a council’s fisheries. Councils already have the ability to review allocations, and they in fact do periodically review allocations. It is therefore not necessary for Congress to impose those reviews on the councils – and in this case only two of the eight regional management councils. Section 101 would simply degrade these Councils’ ability to manage all of their species at the expense of all fishermen.
  • Opposes efforts to remove limited access privilege programs (LAPPs). (Sec. 103) LAPPs are a proven, effective management system for commercial fisheries. The revised legislation would impose a two-year moratorium on LAPPs (with limited exceptions) by the Gulf of Mexico, South Atlantic, and Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. It would also require yet another study by the National Academy of Sciences on LAPPs. LAPPs have proven to be effective management tools for commercial fisheries, and a study moratorium is not necessary, even for mixed use fisheries. If there is a desire to utilize NAS resources to study fisheries, a better use may be to review alternative fishery management regimes for the recreational sector. Section 103 also would require modifying existing LAPPs to conform to the recommendations of a study that the Congress hasn’t seen yet. The Commerce Committee should have an opportunity to review any LAPP study before deciding whether its recommendations should be required to be implemented. For example, section 201(b) of the bill directs the Secretary to implement, to the extent practicable, the recommendations of a completed NAS study on recreational catch data collection. Any study on LAPPs deserve the same careful review by the Committee before changes are made.

SHA’s issue is that neither of these proposals will improve the management of the recreational sector. Nor will they improve management of the commercial sector. They will simply make it more difficult to effectively manage the commercial sector. That should not be an acceptable outcome of a legislative effort.

We therefore hope that the Commerce Committee will reconsider this legislation and will continue to support the commercial fishing sector – a sector that provides American fishing jobs, supports fishing communities, and ensures continued access to fishery resources for consumers and the public.

Thank you for your consideration on this matter.

Sincerely,

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

Harvesters Oppose S. 1520 as Introduced

February 16, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

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

Sincerely,

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

 

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

January 16, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy


NEWS RELEASE

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

(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 info@seafoodharvesters.org.

Find more at www.seafoodharvesters.org.

### 

 

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.

Sincerely,

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