Fishing Communities Coalition Urges Congress to Break Down Barriers for Young Fishermen, Build on Sustainability Progress
(Washington, D.C....March 6, 2017) As the 115th Congress prepares for an active 2017 legislative agenda, commercial fishermen from New England, the Gulf Coast and Alaska traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress and staff to advocate on behalf of small-boat fishing communities and sustainable fisheries, as part of the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC).
In meetings with more than 30 Congressional offices and committees, FCC members, representing more than 1,000 commercial fishermen, emphasized the importance of building on the successful Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), which has helped rebuild depleted fish populations through sustainable fisheries management.
“At this pivotal moment, small-boat, community-based fishermen want decision-makers in Washington to get a clear understanding of why smart, sustainable fishing policies are vital to their livelihoods and the future of the industry,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen's Alliance. “We must build on the progress we’ve made to ensure current and future generations of commercial fishermen can sustainably harvest America’s seafood and provide it to Americans and the world.”
FCC members advocated for the organization’s proposed National Young Fishermen's Development Program, a bipartisan initiative that would tackle a serious and growing challenge: Due to high cost of entry, financial risks and limited entry-level opportunities, it is more difficult than ever for young men and women to start a career in commercial fishing.
“Young fishermen today must navigate a tough obstacle course to enter this proud and important profession, which is why we are heartened to see growing support in Congress for this initiative,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association. “Empowering the next generation of fishermen with the tools they need to succeed is crucial to the survival of many coastal communities across the country.”
FCC members discussed a range of priorities related to the MSA, including maintaining science-based decision making, improving monitoring and accountability, strengthening community protections, reducing bycatch, and fully funding the science needed to responsibly manage the fisheries. Thanks to the success of the MSA and other federal, state and local sustainability initiatives, the U.S. has rebuilt 40 marine fish populations in our nation's waters since 2000. The commercial fishing and seafood-related industries are a critical part of the U.S. economy, supporting 1.4 million American jobs and generating $153 billion in annual sales.
“Thanks in large part to the success of Magnuson, red snapper have made a huge comeback in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Eric Brazer, Deputy Director for the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders' Alliance. “Any reauthorization of this legislation must build upon this strong foundation, which has created successful fishing businesses and provided consumers with more access to American seafood products.”