SMALL FISHING GROUPS GAIN ACCESS TO FEDERAL FINANCING SUPPORT
FCC Scores Big Win for Small-Boat Fishermen and their Communities
Washington, DC – Small-boat fishermen and community-based fishing organizations just received a big boost in their struggle to finance rights to catch fish in federally managed waters.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has issued a proposed rule that would provide financial assistance to community fishing associations, permit banks and community quota banks to purchase fishing quota and other harvesting rights. Since 2012, members of the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) have worked with Congress to change the law to ensure that community-based fishing associations could access a key loan program to finance harvesting rights for young and beginning fishermen.
The new rule implements changes to the Fisheries Finance Program (FFP) made by the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2015 (P.L. 114-120). Prior to the change, loans for the purchase of harvesting rights were limited to fisheries in Alaska.
“This is a major positive change that will give younger fishermen and smaller fishing operations a chance to build their businesses for the future,” said John Pappalardo, FCC President and CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “Financing community quota banks has been a huge challenge for our member fishermen, so having FFP loans available as a potential source of funding is a powerful change for the better.”
After the 2015 law was passed, members of the FCC met with NMFS personnel to provide information on how various quota banks were created and how they work.
The new rule does not waive the economic soundness test applied by NMFS to all FFP loans. Like other FFP loans, lending for harvesting rights is subject to a loan limit of 80 percent of the actual cost. Harvesting rights loans can carry a 25-year term and be used to purchase new rights or refinance debt associated with the prior purchase of harvesting rights.
“This new rule represents a major victory for fishing communities and small-scale fishing businesses across the nation,” Pappalardo continued. “FCC members in Alaska, Maine and Massachusetts have already created community quota banks – and this new rule will allow more fishermen to build a career on the water.”
COMMUNITY FISHERMEN: SCIENCE-BASED MANAGEMENT KEY TO FUTURE OF OUR FISHING COMMUNITIES
As Senate Panel Examines Fisheries Science, FCC Members Emphasize Positive Impact of Magnuson-Stevens Act on Fishing Families and Local Economies
Washington, DC – As a key Senate panel examined fisheries science in a hearing Tuesday, members of the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) underscored the tremendous economic benefits science-based fisheries management has yielded for fishing communities across the country and urged lawmakers to strengthen these critical provisions as Congress considers reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).
“Strong science-based fishery management under MSA has been critical to rebuilding and maintaining fish stocks, including the Atlantic Sea Scallop, which is vital to the livelihoods of so many Cape fishermen,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “We urge Congress to build on the progress that has been made since this critical law was enacted over four decades ago. There is too much at stake to turn back.”
Since 2000 alone, 41 fish stocks around the country have been rebuilt under MSA. These hard-earned successes have produced substantial economic and social benefits and ensured a safe and sustainable seafood supply for our nation.
“Through a powerful combination of sustainable, science-based fisheries management and close collaboration with America’s fishing industry, the MSA has yielded remarkable results from coast to coast,” said Linda Behnken, an Alaska commercial fisherman and Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “Congress can secure the future of fishing communities by building on this success – including frequent stock assessments, better data collection across all sectors and policy designed to meet the needs of small-scale fishermen.”
Tuesday’s meeting of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard was the fourth in a series of hearings on MSA reauthorization.
Last summer and this fall, representatives of four FCC member organizations from Alaska to the Gulf to Maine have testified before House and Senate committees on MSA reauthorization, including Linda Behnken of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, Shannon Carroll of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, Ben Martens of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and Bubba Cochrane of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance.
COMMUNITY FISHERMEN OFFER ROADMAP TO SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES
In House Testimony, FCC Representative Ben Martens Outlines Commercial Fishing Priorities for Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization
Washington, DC – In testimony before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans, Ben Martens, Executive Director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association (MCFA), a founding member of the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC), called on Congress to stand by the historically successful legislation and make it even more effective in protecting and building sustainable fisheries nationwide.
“While we believe the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) is working well, reauthorization presents an opportunity to build on the foundational principles of the law that have brought so many of America’s fisheries back from the brink,” said Martens. “Our priorities include strong science-based decision-making, improving fishery data collection, ensuring accountability from all harvesters of the resource and better protecting our vital commercial fishing communities.”
The FCC has submitted a legislative package (see testimony for details) reflecting the shared priorities of more than 1,000 small-boat, community fishermen as Congress considers reauthorization of the MSA.
In his testimony, Martens made it clear that while the MCFA and FCC do not support existing legislative proposals (H.R.200 and H.R.2023) in their current form, the organizations support certain provisions of these bills and stand ready to work with Congress to build on the successful track record of the MSA.
“We look forward to working with Congress to find a path forward for reauthorization that does not compromise or roll back the great progress we have seen to date,” added Martens. “The future of Maine’s fishing communities and countless others across the country depend on it.”
The FCC’s legislative package focuses on six priority areas:
- Council Accountability, Transparency and Public Process
- Financing of Fisheries Monitoring Programs
- Recreational Fishing / Catch Limits
- Improved Forage Fish Management
- Strengthening Fishing Communities
- Supporting the Next Generation of Commercial Fishermen
Martens’s testimony comes less than two weeks after Captain Bubba Cochrane of Galveston, TX, a commercial fisherman and President of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, an FCC member, testified on MSA reauthorization before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard.
GULF FISHERMEN TO CONGRESS: PROTECT THE MAGNUSON-STEVENS ACT
In Senate Testimony, Shareholders’ Bubba Cochrane Warns Weakening Fisheries Management Law Would Harm Fishermen, Fishing Communities, Consumers
Washington, D.C. – In testimony delivered before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, Captain Bubba Cochrane of Galveston, TX, a commercial fisherman and President of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, a member of the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC), urged Congress to preserve and build on the successful track record of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).
Highlighting the tremendous social and economic benefits of healthy fish stocks, including rebuilding the red snapper population in the Gulf, Cochrane detailed the unprecedented success of MSA and its core principles as Congress moves to reauthorize the nation’s landmark fisheries law:
America has set the gold standard for sustainable fisheries because of our commitment to science-based management. The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the system’s bipartisan backbone and it is something we should all be proud of. Forty-one stocks have been rebuilt since 2001 and the number of stocks on the overfishing and overfished lists remains near all-time lows.
Thanks to Magnuson-Stevens’ science-based conservation requirements and the commercial IFQ (individual fishing quota) program, the red snapper quota for all fishermen in the Gulf has nearly tripled in the last 10 years, from 5 million pounds to nearly 14 million pounds.
Cochrane pointedly addressed calls by certain elements of the recreational fishing community to abandon rebuilding plans in the name of “flexibility,” an action that would effectively nullify MSA.
[A]s the U.S. Department of Commerce admits, bypassing conservation measures and science-based management will result in the recreational sector substantially exceeding its annual catch limit and delay rebuilding the stock by as many as six years. We support the Gulf States and federal government working together to develop a sustainable, accountable, science-based solution to the Gulf of Mexico private angler fishing challenges.
We – the nation’s fishermen, seafood suppliers, seafood-consuming public and Congressional leaders – have an obligation to protect the gains we’ve made and the recoveries we’ve experienced under the last 40 years of Magnuson-Stevens. We owe it to ourselves, our fishing communities and the next generation of fishermen to pass on a natural resource legacy that ensures sustainable seafood and sustainable public access for all Americans for today and future generations.
The Gulf’s fight is everyone’s fight. It’s a fight to put the long-term supply of fish first, to commit to science-based management, to insist on accountability across all sectors, to invest in the future generation, and to ultimately defend the pillar of our nation’s fisheries – the Magnuson-Stevens Act.