Seafood Harvesters of America President Chris Brown issued the following statement regarding an outline put forward by the fish and wildlife managers from five states that would allow for a state takeover of federal waters. The scheme will open the door to devastating overfishing and set a dangerous precedent that could unravel the responsible management of America’s fisheries under the landmark Magnuson-Stevens Act:
“If this scheme becomes law, it could soon become difficult or impossible to legally buy American Red Snapper. Retailers, restaurants and grocery stores will be simply unable to provide consumers with the genuine American Red Snapper that is increasingly popular across the country.
“Casting aside the Magnuson-Stevens Act in favor of this proposal would upend almost a decade of progress in restoring the American Red Snapper – declaring a virtual free for all on the fragile fishery in the Gulf of Mexico that now supplies more than 99% of American Red Snapper. The state bureaucrats propose to take over management of the fishery in federal waters. The territory will be divided amongst five states, and will not require compliance with existing legal standards within the Magnuson-Stevens Act to prevent overfishing and rebuild the fishery. If any state is lax in enforcing quotas on commercial or recreational harvests, the other states will have little incentive to be stricter than their neighboring state – creating a ‘race to the bottom’ effect. The result will be dramatic, unsustainable overfishing by recreational fishermen. This is simply reckless and insatiable greed that in no way serves the best interest of this nation.
“Indeed the stated purpose of the proposal is to increase the proportion of American Red Snapper that will be allocated to recreational fishermen who have far less scrutiny and accountability of their catches than commercial fishermen. While most of these individuals are responsible sportsmen, the lack of real-time catch reporting and a catch management system such as tags for private anglers places an enormous strain on the fishery.
“Since 2007, commercial fishermen have lived within their allotted quota each and every year. But recreational fishermen have exceeded their quota in six of the last eight years. Excluding last year and the year of the BP oil spill – when fishing was not allowed for many months – recreational fishermen have surpassed their quota by an average of 84%. A plan designed to take quota from the commercial sector and increase the recreational quota even further will likely open the door to more unsustainable overfishing. Recreational fishermen should focus on creating an accountable fishery for themselves, rather than using politics to reallocate access to American Red Snapper.
“Not only will the proposal harm American consumers it also could mean financial ruin for thousands of hardworking small businesses who make their living through responsible, sustainable harvest of this highly sought after fish.
“Finally, the scheme represents an unprecedented departure from the responsible federal management process that has existed for decades under the landmark Magnuson-Stevens Act and has helped restore fisheries around the nation. Through a public process, the Gulf Fishery Management Council has worked to help rebuild the Red Snapper fishery, more than doubling the quota from 2008 to 2014. Commercial fishermen from the Gulf of Alaska, to the Gulf of Maine, and south to the Gulf of Mexico have expressed deep concerns that abandoning the council system could set a dangerous precedent for unraveling fishery protections around the country – costing them a way of life and endangering the future of wild caught, sustainably harvested American seafood.”
Seafood Harvesters of America member organizations:
Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers – Seattle, WA
Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association – Kodiak, AK
Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance – Chatham, MA
Fishing Vessel Owners Association – Seattle, WA
Fort Bragg Groundfish Association – Fort Bragg, CA
George’s Bank Cod Fixed Gear Sector – Chatham, MA
Gulf Fishermen’s Association – Clearwater, FL
Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance – Galveston, TX
Midwater Trawlers Cooperative – Newport, OR
New Hampshire Groundfish Sectors – Portsmouth, NH
North Pacific Fisheries Association – Homer, AK
Purse Seine Vessel Owners Association – Seattle, WA
Rhode Island Commercial Fishermen’s Association – Wakefield, RI
South Atlantic Fishermen’s Association – Charleston, SC
United Catcher Boats – Seattle, WA