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.