News

Center for Sportfishing Policy defends support of fisheries bill

November 17, 2017 - Published in News Clippings

Article from Trade Today Only, April 12, 2017

Center for Sportfishing Policy Defends Support of Fisheries Bill

By Trade Today Only Editors

The Center for Sportfishing Policy is issuing a response to attacks on a bipartisan bill introduced last week in Congress that would reform current federal fisheries management policy.

“Last week’s bipartisan introduction of the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017, or the Modern Fish Act, marked the best opportunity in years for Congress to address serious challenges that have faced the nation’s saltwater recreational fishing community for far too long,” the center said in a statement.

If passed, the Modern Fish Act will reform key aspects of current federal fisheries management policy, allowing for greater public access to America’s waters, enhanced science and a much-needed boost for thousands of businesses, the center said.

Some defenders of the status quo “have voiced over-the-top and misinformed interpretations of the bill,” the statement said.

The bill has come under fire from the nation’s largest organization of commercial seafood harvesters, according to the Portland Press Herald in Maine.

The Seafood Harvesters of America argues that the bill would hamstring federal regional fishery councils’ ability to manage the fishery sector and most species while also limiting the ability to innovate new solutions to overfishing.

“We support the bill sponsors’ effort to obtain additional, more accurate and real-time data on our fisheries and in particular, the recreational sector, which will help better manage our fisheries,” Seafood Harvesters of America executive director Kevin Wheeler said in a statement.

Seafood Harvesters of America Voice Concern Over Modern Fish Act

November 17, 2017 - Published in News Clippings

Article from PerishableNews.com, April 12, 2017

Seafood Harvesters Of America Voice Concern Over Modern Fish Act

By PerishableNews.com

Washington, D.C. – On April 6, 2017 the commercial fishing community expressed the following concerns to the introduction of a bill that exempts saltwater recreational fishing from sustainable management efforts.

Introduced by Congressmen Garret Graves (R-La.), Gene Green (D-Texas), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017” (Modern Fish Act) would hamstring federal regional fishery councils’ ability to manage the fishery sector and most species, while also limiting the ability to innovate new solutions to overfishing.

“We support the bill sponsors’ effort to obtain additional, more accurate and real-time data on our fisheries and in particular, the recreational sector, which will help better manage our fisheries. However, this bill would fundamentally exempt the recreational fishing community from adhering to the basic conservation standards that have been central to the rebuilding of many of our fish stocks. Waiting for fisheries to be overfished before we act led to stock collapses in the past and created economic hardship for the entire fishing industry. We can’t afford to take that route again. Doing so would devastate not only the fisheries themselves, but would have enormous economic impact on the commercial sectors that harvest, process, market, and sell seafood across the nation. While not engaged in the drafting of this legislation, we look forward to working with Congress, NOAA and the fishing community to ensure that we have accountability in both the commercial and recreational sectors so that our fisheries can be a renewable resource for the enjoyment of all Americans,” said Seafood Harvesters of America Executive Director, Kevin Wheeler.

The Harvesters is a broad-based association that represents the following commercial fishing organizations coast-to-coast.

Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers
Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association
Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance
Cordova District Fishermen United
Fishing Vessel Owners’ Association
Fort Bragg Groundfish Association
Georges Bank Cod Fixed Gear Sector, Inc.
Gulf Fishermen’s Association
Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholder’s Alliance
Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association
Midwater Trawlers Cooperative
New Hampshire Groundfish Sectors
North Pacific Fisheries Association (NPFA)
Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association (PSVOA)
Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association
South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association
United Catcher Boats

Source: Seafood Harvesters Of America

Seafood Harvesters of America Opposes Modern Fish Act

November 17, 2017 - Published in News Clippings

Article from Seafood News, April 10, 2017

Seafood Harvesters of America Opposes Modern Fish Act

By Seafood News

Washington, D.C. – A new bill focused on recreational fishing has drawn strong opposition from the nation’s largest organization of commercial seafood harvesters.

SHA clams that The Modern Fish Act would hamstring federal regional fishery councils’ ability to manage the fishery sector and most species, while also limiting the ability to innovate new solutions to overfishing…

Click here for the full story.

Seafood Harvesters of America opposes bill focused on recreational fishing

November 17, 2017 - Published in News Clippings

Article from Undercurrent News, April 11, 2017

Seafood Harvesters of America Opposes Bill Focused on Recreational Fishing

By Undercurrent News

A new bill focused on recreational fishing has drawn strong opposition from the nation’s largest organization of commercial seafood harvesters, reports the Portland Press Herald.

The Seafood Harvesters of America claims that the bill, Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017, would harm the federal regional fishery council’s ability to manage the fishery sector and most species, while also limiting the ability to innovate new solutions to overfishing.

The bill was submitted April 6 and would change the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to allow for alternative management of waters for recreational fishing, re-examine fisheries allocations and establish exemptions to certain catch limits.

The bill would require regular review of catch allocations, which recreational fishermen say have historically benefited commercial fishermen.

Click here for the full story.

Seafood Harvesters Group Opposes Bill Focused on Recreational Fishing

November 17, 2017 - Published in News Clippings

Article from Portland Press Herald, April 10, 2017

Seafood Harvesters Group Opposes Bill Focused on Recreational Fishing

By Portland Press Hearld Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A new bill focused on recreational fishing has drawn strong opposition from the nation’s largest organization of commercial seafood harvesters.

The Seafood Harvesters of America claims that the bill would hamstring federal regional fishery councils’ ability to manage the fishery sector and most species, while also limiting the ability to innovate new solutions to overfishing.

The bill was submitted April 6 and would change the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. It allows for alternative management of waters for recreational fishing, re-examines fisheries allocations and establishes exemptions to certain catch limits. The bill would require regular review of catch allocations, which recreational fishermen say have historically benefited commercial fishermen.

The harvesters group released a statement late Sunday voicing concern about the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017. The bill was introduced by U.S. Reps. Garret Graves, R-La.; Gene Green, D-Texas; Daniel Webster, R-Fla.; and Rob Wittman, R-Va.

“We support the bill sponsors’ effort to obtain additional, more accurate and real-time data on our fisheries and in particular, the recreational sector, which will help better manage our fisheries,” said Kevin Wheeler, executive director of Seafood Harvesters of America. “However, this bill would fundamentally exempt the recreational fishing community from adhering to the basic conservation standards that have been central to the rebuilding of many of our fish stocks.”

Wheeler said waiting for fisheries to be overfished before regulators took action is what led to stock collapses in the past and created economic hardship for the entire fishing industry.

“We can’t afford to take that route again,” he said. “Doing so would devastate not only the fisheries themselves, but would have enormous economic impact on the commercial sectors that harvest, process, market, and sell seafood across the nation.”

Although the SHA was not involved in drafting the legislation, Wheeler said the organization looks forward to working with Congress, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the fishing community to ensure accountability in both the commercial and recreational sectors.

SHA represent these commercial fishing 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 Cod Fixed Gear Sector Inc., Gulf Fishermen’s Association, Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholder’s Alliance, Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, New Hampshire Groundfish Sectors, North Pacific Fisheries Association, Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association, Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association, South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association and United Catcher Boats.

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.

Sincerely,

Chris Brown, President

Kevin Wheeler, Executive Director

SEAFOOD HARVESTERS OF AMERICA: LETTER TO SECRETARY WILBUR ROSS

June 19, 2017 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

June 16, 2017

The Honorable Wilbur Ross
Secretary,
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