Shutdown Creates Headwinds for Commercial Fishermen

Furloughs Halt Fisheries Permits and Projects; Gulf of Mexico Red Snapper Management Program Implementation Faces Uncertainty

Washington, D.C. – America’s fishing communities are feeling the negative effects of the ongoing partial federal government shutdown, with key fisheries resources — including quota transaction approvals necessary for some fishermen to get on the water — cut off due to furloughed staff and shuttered offices.  

The shutdown has also disrupted National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) quota monitoring and stock assessments in locations across the country, deprived Coast Guard members of their paychecks, and imperiled the timely implementation of a critical state recreational red snapper management program in the Gulf of Mexico.

“We appreciate everything NMFS is doing while they’re forced to operate incredibly short-handed, but this federal shutdown is hurting Gulf Coast fishermen and coastal fishing communities from Texas to Florida, and may derail a sustainable management plan for the Gulf’s iconic red snapper fishery,” said Eric Brazer, Deputy Director of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance. “Commercial fishermen, charter fishermen, and private recreational anglers have spent years working to reach common ground, and now this shutdown could delay the sustainable solution that private anglers have been looking for.”

The Gulf red snapper plan is part of a long list of harmful shutdown impacts facing the U.S. Commercial Fishing & Seafood Industry, which generated $144 billion in sales and supported 1.2 million jobs in 2016.*

“Alaska’s fishermen are feeling the pain of the shutdown, and the consequences become more serious every day it continues,” said Linda Behnken of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA). "We are working to help young fishermen gain access to local fisheries, but that access depends on government workers being at their desks to process transfers and manage fisheries — none of which is happening right now."

 NMFS furloughs have disrupted or halted the review and approval of Exempted Fishing Permits (EFP), quota transfers that fishermen depend on to earn a living, economic development grants, stock assessments and key scientific studies, and assessments necessary to maintain America’s sustainable fisheries, among other impacts.

 “With critical cooperative research and exempted fishing permits on hold, the Cape’s fishermen are facing uncertainty due to the shutdown,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. “The absence of staff needed to input landings data and monitor quota presents a significant risk of fishermen going over quotas, threatening the health of our fisheries and the long-term financial well-being of our commercial fishermen.”

 “New England’s fisheries rely on the federal government to ensure fishermen can get off the docks and catch the seafood we all love,” said Ben Martens, Executive Director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. “With an extended shutdown, livelihoods, on the water accountability, and the sustainability of our marine resources will all be put at risk as stock assessments and management priorities, and necessary rulemakings become impossible with new constraints and timelines.” 

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*NOAA Fisheries: Fisheries Economics of the United States, 2016