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.




At Senate Field Hearing, FCC Members Highlight Threats to Magnuson-Stevens Act & Science-Based Fisheries Management

Washington, DC – Members of the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) continue to urge lawmakers to build on the successes of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) and resist efforts to weaken the science-based management provisions of the law that have succeeded in rebuilding and sustaining America’s fisheries and the communities and consumers that rely on them.

Testifying before a Senate field hearing in Alaska chaired by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK), FCC members recently highlighted the threats facing MSA’s core principles as Congress prepares to move forward with reauthorizing the primary law governing America’s fisheries.

“In Alaska, as elsewhere, commercial fisheries are a critical and sustainable source of employment, income and cultural identity,” said Linda Behnken, an Alaska commercial fisherman and Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “The benefits of ending overfishing and rebuilding overfished populations are far-reaching, and the costs of delaying rebuilding are significant. The MSA is working here in Alaska and around the country – any changes should be guided by a commitment to conservation.”

Alaska has served as a model for the entire nation, as its commercial groundfish and halibut fisheries are widely considered among the best-managed fisheries in the world. The FCC members thanked Senator Sullivan for his leadership and urged Congress and the Administration to resist growing efforts to undermine the core conservation principles of MSA.

“Despite the 40-year track record in Alaska and the significant gains other regions have seen since the last reauthorization of MSA, some well-funded factions are pushing for Congress to undo this success,” said Shannon Carroll, Deputy Director of the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. “This would be a serious mistake. Congress can help fishermen, processors, coastal communities and the thousands of small businesses that depend on wild-caught, American seafood and fishing opportunities by investing in the science that allows fishermen to harvest optimum yield on a continuing basis.”

FCC member organizations and the commercial fishermen they represent will continue to press the case for science-based fishery management at every turn, including upcoming field hearings, events in the nation’s capital and elsewhere.




NOAA Fisheries Appointment of Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance CEO Gives Science-Based Management a Boost

Washington, DC – The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) applauds Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries Chris Oliver for reappointing John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, to the New England Fishery Management Council for another three-year term. The FCC, which strongly supported Pappalardo’s nomination by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in March, hailed the appointment as a victory for science-based fishery management and the communities that rely on stable fish stocks.

Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association, who was honored by the White House as a “Champion of Change” in 2016 for her work on fishing sustainability, made the following statement:

“John Pappalardo remains a strong advocate for long-term, science-based decision-making, and the Fishing Communities Coalition is grateful to Secretary Ross, Assistant Administrator Oliver and Governor Baker for their support. Mr. Pappalardo has decades of experience in sustainable fisheries management and has a comprehensive understanding of both federal fisheries and the needs of small-boat fishermen. He has worked diligently to develop and support solutions to the many complex issues facing New England fisheries and is committed to supporting the next generation of commercial fishermen.”

Young Fishermen's Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate


FCC Initiative Gains Momentum as Senators Sullivan (AK), Murkowski (AK), Markey (MA) & Cantwell (WA) Champion Effort to Assist Next Generation of Commercial Fishermen  

Washington, DC – The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) today applauded Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ed Markey (D-MA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) for cosponsoring the Young Fishermen’s Development Act (S.1323). The bipartisan and bicoastal bill, a top FCC priority (watch our new video released today), would give fishing communities a needed boost by addressing steep and growing obstacles – including high cost of entry and limited entry-level opportunities – facing the next generation of America’s commercial fishermen.

“The growing bipartisan momentum behind this bill is very encouraging and shows that leaders in both parties understand that fishermen in today’s world need to know a lot more than simply how to fish,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “We appreciate Senator Markey’s leadership in getting this program off the ground because it will give the next generation of fishermen training in fisheries management, business planning and market development tools they’ll need to make a good living bringing sustainable seafood to Americans.”

The Senate legislation, which aligns closely with a House version introduced in April by U.S. Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Seth Moulton (D-MA), would launch the first coordinated, nationwide effort to train, educate and assist the next generation of commercial fishermen, providing grants of up to $200,000 (totaling $2 million annually) through NOAA’s Sea Grant Program. The FCC recently debuted a short video about the bill that features the voices of current and aspiring fishermen.

“As one of those dependent on the long-term success of our working waterfronts, I’m very grateful to Senators Sullivan and Murkowski for supporting legislation that recognizes the challenges today’s fishermen face,” said Hannah Heimbuch, an Alaska commercial fisherman who also works for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council. “By supporting independent fishermen with this action, we have an opportunity to bolster American food security and the health of coastal communities.”

The bill is modeled after the USDA’s successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which is credited with preparing hundreds of young farmers and ranchers for rewarding careers in agriculture. Young fishermen representing FCC members from every U.S. coast recently traveled to Washington, DC, to urge legislators to support the initiative.  

“Fishing employs more Alaskans than any other industry in the state, but high barriers and costs remain for newer generations attempting to fill the ranks of this vital sector of our economy,” said Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK). “This legislation will coalesce regional efforts to lower these barriers through new grants, training opportunities and an apprenticeship program that will help harness the experience of seasoned fishermen. Replenishing the stocks of qualified stewards of our fisheries will help ensure Alaska remains the superpower of seafood.”

“For centuries, fishing has been at the heart of coastal communities in Massachusetts, but it is an increasingly challenging one for new fishermen to join,” said Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). “This legislation will help make sure that our fishing industry continues to attract future generations of fishermen. These training programs will help young men and women be able to push off the dock into new careers and make vital economic contributions to their communities.”

About the Young Fishermen’s Development Act