Snapper bill could kill fishing jobs

The commercial and charter fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico and throughout the United States, are unified in opposition to H.R. 3094 (Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act).

Every year tens of millions of Americans enjoy fresh caught seafood from their favorite restaurants and grocery stores, and millions of tourists travel to the coasts for a day of fishing on charter boats.  Fish and shellfish are public resources, and our four fishing industry organizations work hard to provide the American public with sustainable access to the bounty of the Gulf of Mexico and other coastal regions of our nation.

{mosads}Together, our organizations and the thousands of fishermen we represent have embraced science and management tools that promote conservation and sustainable fishing practices, reduce wasteful by-catch, operate safer and more stable small businesses, and protect fishing and shore-side jobs.  We strive for sustainability, accountability, and access to some of the world’s best seafood; and we do so through active and progressive campaigns that bring fishermen, stakeholders, and regulators together to solve problems.

H.R. 3094 poses a clear and imminent threat to our jobs, our fishing communities, and the red snapper resource that we have helped rebuild to some of the highest levels on record.

  • H.R. 3094 creates loopholes that will erode the commercial red snapper fishery and access to red snapper by millions of American consumers.  Commercial management of red snapper in the Gulf is a success story – overfishing was stopped, wasteful discarding was all-but-eliminated, and fishing businesses and jobs are profitable and stable.  This is all due to the core conservation and management protections that are afforded to us under federal law (the Magnuson-Stevens Conservation and Management Act). H.R. 3094 allows the Gulf States to take away nearly 10% of the commercial quota every year without conferring with the Congressionally-approved and stakeholder-comprised Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council).  To add insult to injury, H.R. 3094 deceives the public by claiming it will not change the IFQ shares in this fishery.  However, those who developed this language fail to point out that the “shares” are a percentage of the whole commercial allocation, and that any reduction in commercial allocation will reduce the quota associated with the shares.  Commercial fishermen don’t keep what they catch – it goes to American consumers who purchase red snapper from restaurants and grocery stores.
  • H.R. 3094 undermines the management of the charter fishery and access to red snapper by millions of recreational fishermen who don’t own a boat.  Charter fishermen strive to run successful small businesses and have spent years working towards management solutions with the Gulf Council that give them stability and the flexibility they need under federal fishery laws and conservation guidelines.  These federally-permitted vessels operate in federal waters, and have been near-unanimous in their vocal support for federal management
  • H.R. 3094 removes essential transparency and public input, and fails to provide necessary information.  The language in this bill was hatched from a plan that was developed by the five Gulf state fishery directors in a secret meeting with no fishermen informed or present. Rather than run this proposal through the Gulf Council, the proposal is being imposed on the fishermen by Congress.
  • H.R. 3094 fails to protect and continue to rebuild the red snapper population.  Federal law clearly lays out how unhealthy fisheries must be rebuilt to healthy levels using accountability measures and catch limits, and identifies the timeline by which this should happen.  H.R. 3094 fails to explain how it will promote conservation and the long-term health of the red snapper resource. 
  • Gulf of Mexico private recreational anglers have not proposed management system improvements for their own fishery that would extend their fishing season.  Gulf commercial and charter red snapper fishermen developed alternative management and catch reporting systems that have allowed them to extend their seasons without taking red snapper allocations from other fishing sectors.  Instead of trying to steal red snapper allocations from the commercial and charter fishing sectors, private recreational anglers should develop their own management and reporting alternatives that would allow them to extend their season as well.
  • H.R. 3094 is a controversial, ill-advised, unfunded, and precedent-setting measure that would ripple from the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska and New England.  Over 40 commercial fishing organizations from throughout the U.S. have signed on opposing this plan to sidestep federal fisheries law and undermine the commercial red snapper fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.  This is about more than red snapper – it’s about protecting the small businesses that deliver our nation’s seafood to the American consumer.  This bill undermines the Magnuson-Stevens Act and could set a dangerous national precedent that could unravel the successes of this landmark piece of legislation.

State takeover of federal management of red snapper is not the right solution for American consumers or for commercial and charter fishermen and they should not be forced into this form of regulation.  If the private red snapper angler wants to be managed by the Gulf States, then let’s do it the way it’s supposed to be done – through the Congressionally-approved Gulf Council, with a public and transparent stakeholder-driven process, under federal conservation requirements, and with the support of the private recreational fishermen themselves.  H.R. 3094 is not the answer, and we hope you consider voting against this proposal.

Cantrell is the executive director of the Charter Fisherman’s Association. Guindon is the executive director of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance. Brooks is the president of the Gulf Fishermen’s Association. Veerhusen is the executive director of the Seafood Harvesters of America.


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