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Commercial Fishing Organizations Across Country Unite to Sustain Economically-Critical Industry

June 5, 2014 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

Seafood Harvesters of America Offers Voice of Accountability on Reauthorization of Magnuson-Stevens Act, Other National Policy Issues

Washington, DC – Ahead of this year’s Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW), more than a dozen commercial fishing associations from all different regions of the country are announcing the creation of the only national organization of its kind representing the interests of U.S. fishermen that provide wild seafood to American consumers.

With wide-spread support, from New England and the Florida Keys to the Bering Sea in Alaska, the Seafood Harvesters of America will work to ensure a plentiful and lasting seafood harvest for generations to come.

Harvesters’ mantra is “accountability,” and it intends to make its voice heard on regulatory issues, budget priorities, conservation goals and the economic potential of America’s fisheries, among others.

So far, 14 organizations have already thrown their support behind Seafood Harvesters of America. The diversity of Harvesters’ members reflects the complexity of federal fisheries, as well as the enormous contribution of the commercial industry to America’s coastal communities.

Heading up Seafood Harvesters of America as its president is Chris Brown, who also leads the Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association. Brown is well-known both as a commercial fisherman and as an advocate for U.S. fisheries.

“Through Harvesters, America’s commercial fishermen will be at the table when important decisions are made,” he says. “That’s key, because in Washington, D.C., if you aren’t at the table, you’re on the menu.”

Brown will participate alongside National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) assistant administrator Eileen Sobeck and National Geographic fellow and restaurateur Barton Seaver on a CHOW panel titled “The Future of American Fisheries,” on Thursday, June 12.

The new organization’s five-member board also includes leaders from important fisheries in key regions. Joining Brown are Jack Cox (South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association), John Schmidt (Gulf Fishermen’s Association), Brent Paine (United Catcher Boats) and Mark Gleason (Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers).

Gleason, the secretary-treasurer for the Harvesters, adds that, “although our fisheries are very diverse and many of our organizations have critical needs at the regional level, we’ve been able to identify a set of common interests and positions that we now hope to communicate to federal policy makers.”

Critical to the healthy diets of millions of Americans, seafood production is the economic backbone of communities along our nation’s coasts. In 2012, U.S. commercial fishermen caught 9.6 billion pounds of fish, adding nearly 1.3 million direct and indirect jobs to our nation’s economy.

“Every fishery in our country, commercial or sport, must demonstrate accountability and transparency in order to continue sustainably harvesting a public resource,” says John Schmidt, who serves as the organization’s vice president.

Among the issues likely to be discussed at CHOW is the re-authorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), which is the nation’s primary law governing U.S. fisheries.  Both chambers of Congress are now circulating draft MSA bills, and one of the Harvesters’ top priorities will be to ensure that the law maintains strict catch limits and does not erode any of the progress commercial fishermen have made with rebuilding fish stocks.

“Our members strive for strict accountability and science-based decision making to ensure healthy stocks for generations,” adds Brett Veerhusen, the new executive director of the Seafood Harvesters of America.

In addition to the Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization, the Seafood Harvesters of America will work to:

  • Ensure sufficient funding for well-designed stock assessments
  • Promote accountability in commercial and recreational fisheries management
  • Advance cost-effective catch-monitoring programs
  • Advocate for an increased role in cooperative fisheries management and cooperative research

 

A full listing of the group’s initial membership can be found at seafoodharvesters.org.

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