National Young Fishermen’s Development Program Gains Congressional Support

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 12, 2016

National Young Fishermen’s Development Program Gains Congressional Support

Washington, DC: The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) announced today that their proposed National Young Fishermen’s Development Program gained support from Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle during recent meetings in Washington, D.C. Over the past several months, dozens of FCC commercial fishermen members have met with more than 30 congressional offices to promote this sorely needed program.

“We are all thrilled that this proposal has received such a warm welcome on Capitol Hill,” said Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association. “We’ve brought a number of young Alaskan fishermen to Washington to demonstrate the real need for this program and the difficulties facing our industry in recruiting qualified young fishermen.” 

Currently, there is not a single federal program dedicated to training, educating and assisting the next generation of commercial fishermen and the need could not be greater. Without a new generation of fishermen, consumer access to domestically-caught seafood will disappear along with fishing jobs and portside infrastructure.

Numerous challenges, like the high cost of entry, financial risks and the lack of entry-level opportunities have significantly reduced the opportunities for young people to start a career in commercial fishing. The Young Fishermen’s Development Program would help expand upon current, but very limited, regional efforts underway and initiate a federal program to support our nation’s beginning commercial fishermen and ensure a continuous supply of safe, healthy American seafood to market.

The program is modeled after the USDA’s successful Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which Congress enacted several years ago to ensure the future of that industry.  That program is credited with preparing hundreds of young farmers and ranchers for industry careers.

“The average age of those engaged in the commercial fishing industry, like the farming industry a number of years ago, continues to increase,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance.  “We must act now to ensure that the next generation of commercial fishermen are well prepared to sustainably harvest America’s seafood and support our coastal communities.”

In addition to congressional support, the FCC intends to meet with representatives from the Trump Administration and seek their support for this exciting program aimed at preserving fishing communities, creating jobs for young fishermen and ensuring a sustainable supply of American-caught seafood to market.

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The Fishing Communities Coalition is the united voice for small-boat, community-focused, commercial fishermen from around the country who strive to bring their stewardship vision to bear on national issues. We believe that together, fishermen from around the United States who believe in community-focused ideals, science-based management and forward-looking policies can build a national movement that protects fish, fishermen and fishing communities for this and future generations.

 

 

FCC Members Selected as White House Champions of Change for Sustainable Seafood

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 6, 2016

 

FCC Members Selected as White House Champions of Change for Sustainable Seafood

Washington, DC: The Fishing Communities Coalition is proud to announce the selection of two of its members, Linda Behnken and Jason DeLaCruz, to receive the first-ever award for “Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood.” This White House initiative sought to recognize 12 individuals supporting sustainable fisheries and contributing to the recovery of America’s fishing industry and our fishing communities.

Linda Behnken, the current Executive Director for the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) and a founding member of the FCC, has fished commercially off Alaska for over 30 years. Linda served on the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, the North Pacific Anadramous Fish Commission, and was recently appointed to serve as Commissioner to the International Pacific Halibut Commission. With project partners, Linda helped launch Alaskans Own, Alaska’s first community supported fishery program, and the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust, which is focused on helping the next generation of community-based fishermen secure access to healthy fisheries. “It is a true honor to have been selected as a White House Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood. I am excited to see that sustainable fisheries is garnering the national attention it deserves. I look forward to working with Alaskans, and others, to ensure that the incredible fisheries resources harvested in our region remain healthy, sustainable, and available for all U.S. citizens to enjoy,” said Behnken.

Jason DeLaCruz has built up his commercial fishing business to include fishing vessels and a successful wholesale fish market, Wild Seafood Co., which he runs with his wife, Vicky. Jason is also currently the Vice President of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, a non-profit fishermen's educational organization that is working to protect the Gulf’s fish and fishermen for today and for future generations. Additionally, Jason was a co-founder of Gulf Wild, a comprehensive seafood traceability program that is built upon a series of conservation covenants and utilizes unique tags to track fish from the boat to the plate. “Jason’s commitment to seafood traceability and conservation has helped brand Gulf Wild as the nation's premier seafood traceability program. He invests a lot of time building relationships, which makes him a great businessman and an exceptional leader. We're glad to have him onboard and believe he's more than worthy of this national award,” said Glen Brooks, President of Gulf Wild.

We are proud to have Jason and Linda’s continued efforts to ensure the sustainability of our Nation’s fisheries recognized by President Obama and his Administration.

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The Fishing Communities Coalition is the united voice for small-boat, community focused, commercial fishermen from around the country who strive to bring their stewardship vision to bear on national issues. We believe that together, fishermen from around the United States who believe in community-focused ideals, science-based management, and forward-looking policies can build a national movement that protects fish, fishermen, and fishing communities for this and future generations.

Magnuson Stevens Turns 40, FCC Members Advocate for Maintaining Strong MSA with Science, Conservation, and Accountability at its Core

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 18th, 2016


MAGNUSON STEVENS TURNS 40, FCC MEMBERS ADVOCATE FOR MAINTAINING STRONG MSA WITH SCIENCE, CONSERVATION, AND ACCOUNTABILITY AT ITS CORE
 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) issued the following statement on their recent visit to Washington, D.C.:
 
More than 15 fishermen and representatives from Alaska, Maine, Massachusetts, Texas, and Florida arrived in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, April 12th, the eve of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) turning 40 years old, to represent the FCC in meetings with legislative and executive offices. FCC members met with more than 20 Congressional offices and committees in the House and Senate, as well as with representatives from NMFS, on Tuesday and Wednesday to highlight the successes of the MSA and to advocate for sensible, smart reforms in future reauthorizations that will continue moving our Nation’s fisheries in the right direction and keep commercial fishermen in business. Discussions included improving monitoring and accountability, including more fully incorporating electronic technologies into management, strengthening community protections, reducing bycatch, supporting the next generation of fishermen, preventing disruptive reallocation reviews, and protecting the NEPA review process in fisheries management. 
 
“MSA turning 40 was a great opportunity for our fishermen and representatives to come to D.C. to illustrate how hugely important this law is to commercial fishermen around the country. Our fishermen recognize that the MSA reauthorization is a pivotal time in fisheries management and we look forward to remaining engaged in the process and supporting our commercial fishing industry.”
Claire Fitz-Gerald, Sector Manager for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance
Chatham Massachusetts
 
“We came to DC with the message that ‘Magnuson is working.’  We impressed upon Congress that any reauthorization should protect the critical conservation and accountability measures in this law, and that we support small improvements that support this vision.  Red snapper are making an epic comeback in the Gulf of Mexico thanks to Magnuson, and we can’t afford to undermine this success story.”
Eric Brazer, Deputy Director for the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance
Galveston, Texas
 
“Fishermen in Alaska rely heavily on the regionally specific, stakeholder-driven MSA process to ensure that the needs of all fishermen are accounted for and considered. It is critical that the Council process continues to be the primary pathway for new fisheries regulations. Members of Congress should be supporting this proven management framework, not trying to erode it, bypass it, or hand management over to states.”
Shannon Carroll, Fisheries Policy Director for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council
Anchorage, Alaska
 
“The Magnuson Stevens Act is protecting not only fish stocks, but also the fishermen who rely on them. MSA has provided important community protections that ensure our small boat fleets are able to access the fisheries and provide fresh fish to their families and communities. During this fly-in, we were able to spend time with Congressional offices discussing ways to further strengthen and expand community protections in any MSA reauthorization bill. As the composition and needs of fishing communities continue to evolve, the MSA should offer assurance that fishermen will be able to access their resource."
Linda Behnken, Executive Director for the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association
Sitka, Alaska
 
“During our visit to D.C., we were able to highlight the continued need for improved accountability in our fisheries. Right now, we are working with a number of small boats in the New England fleet to install electronic monitoring systems that will go live on May 1st. We hope that we can continue to implement electronic technologies not just in New England, but in every region, to help augment the human observer system currently in place. Additionally, we hope that any MSA reauthorization will recognize the benefits of electronic technologies and support more fully incorporating them into observing and management.”
Ben Martens, Executive Director for Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association
Brunswick, Maine
 
Our day and half of meetings in Washington, D.C. culminated with a wildly successful FishTales, our 4th annual happy hour event where commercial fishermen and industry representatives engaged with Hill staff and other ‘fish folk’ here in D.C in an informal and comfortable setting.  

 

Commercial Fishermen spend two days in D.C. advocating for appropriations for critical fisheries programs within NMFS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 14, 2016

Commercial Fishermen spend two days in D.C. advocating for appropriations for critical fisheries programs within NMFS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) issued the following statement on their recent visit to Capitol to meet with Appropriations offices:

We are pleased to announce that FCC members had a productive trip to Washington, D.C. last week to meet with lawmakers who sit on the House and Senate Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee, House Natural Resources Committee, and Senate Commerce Committee and discuss the Coalition’s appropriations priorities for NMFS programs.

More than 20 fishermen and representatives from the FCC’s seven member groups spent two full days on Capitol Hill advocating for fully funding a number of NMFS fisheries programs at the level requested by the President for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) including: Electronic Monitoring and Reporting, Management and Regulatory Support for Electronic Technologies, Observers and Training, Expand Stock Assessments, and Integrated Ocean Acidification, among others. FCC fishermen and representatives met with twenty-two offices in the House and Senate to emphasize how these NMFS programs help improve monitoring, accountability, data collection, and understanding of the reality of what’s happening in and on the water, and ensuring our small boats continue to have access to healthy fisheries.

“We were able to really capitalize on a unique opportunity to influence policy and program implementation through engaging in the appropriations process. Offices were receptive to our appropriations requests and we received a surprising amount of support from offices around the nation for more fully integrating electronic technologies into fisheries management. We are hopeful that as NMFS receives its appropriations, use of electronic technologies becomes more commonplace and serves as a cost-effective, efficient alternative to human observers.” – Ben Martens, Executive Director of Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association

“It is important for lawmakers and staff to hear directly from the fishermen who benefit from these program and why they are so critical to protecting our healthy fisheries. We were able to bring together a wide variety of fishermen, from young Alaskan fishermen to guys who have been fishing for 30+ years in the Gulf of Mexico, to highlight the need for full funding for these programs that directly impact their ability to access healthy fish stocks. The staff we met with appreciated hearing about why these programs are so critical not only to their district or region, but across the nation. It certainly helped illustrate the connectedness of our nation’s fisheries.” – Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association

The FCC fishermen and representatives met with many offices on both sides of the aisle that were new for the Coalition and FCC members are excited to continue many of the great conversations started during the meetings as the appropriations process continues into 2016. 

Ensuring a Future for American Seafood and Fishermen

Our blog post is live on the Huffpost Green Blog today! Link here and text below.

Our new initiative is focused on supporting our next generation of commercial fishermen to ensure that they have the resources and funds necessary to continue providing our nation with sustainably caught seafood. We look forward to working with our stakeholders, managers, and federal officials to develop this program in the  coming weeks and months. Let us know what you think!

 

Ensuring a Future for American Seafood and Fishermen

America's commercial fishermen provide the public with some of the world's best seafood: Alaska salmon and halibut, Maine lobster, Gulf red snapper, New England cod - names that make your mouth water. These are the fishermen who support our coastal economies and contribute to our food security, and continue to do so in the face of a growing number of challenges.

Increasingly, commercial fishermen face vast uncertainty about changing ocean ecosystems, complex state and federal management systems, and the staggering costs to enter America's fisheries. These factors have contributed to a new challenge: declining numbers of young fishermen entering the commercial fishing industry. As a coastal community loses its next generation of fishermen, it also loses access to economic opportunity, food security, and its heritage.

As we work together to ensure the health of America's incredible marine ecosystems, we must also find ways to sustain the next generation of fishermen tasked with putting that food on our nation's table. Rather than see fishermen's role in our food system further isolated and diminished, we should equip young fishermen to be successful food producers, responsible marine stewards and valuable additions to their local economies.

Farmers and ranchers had concerns for their own future generations, inspiring Congress to create a number of programs to support this next generation of agriculture, including the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Programand the Individual Development Accounts. Young farmers and ranchers have benefitted enormously from this federal support, ensuring a future generation is in place for this part of the U.S. food system.

Unfortunately, not a single federal program exists to provide support and resources to young commercial fishermen - the young men and women critical to the preservation of the culture, economy, community health, and food security in coastal America. This lack of support puts this important part of our food system in jeopardy, especially at a time when more consumers are looking for healthy protein sources that are locally sourced and sustainable. It reflects a massive oversight and a lost opportunity.

But we can change that.

A national program that partners with federal, state and local organizations and agencies to provide increased opportunities for the next generation of commercial fishermen, similar to what our friends in the agriculture community have access to, could be a groundbreaking step in protecting the stability of our coastal fishing communities and our seafood supply chain. Such programming and funding, if available to fishermen, could:

  • Offer financial support and guidance for new fishery entrants.
  • Provide training for developing new markets and adding value to their products.
  • Create greater engagement in the public processes supporting marine management, lessening the divide between policy-makers and fishermen.
  • Foster a conservation ethic that prioritizes sustainable fishing practices and marine stewardship.
  • Identify ways to sustain America's working waterfronts essential to coastal industries and traditions.

We have already seen the successes of private and nonprofit efforts that work toward giving the next generation a path to follow and the support needed to acquire the skills and resources necessary to build strong new businesses. But these efforts are not yet well connected or nationally fortified. It is time to expand these regional efforts into a national program. That is why we are working, along with our colleagues around the nation, to propose a program that would provide adequate funding and support resources for this next generation of fishermen.

Now is the time for fishing organizations, federal agencies, regional management councils, and coastal communities to work together on this shared challenge. It is an opportunity for fishermen to unite nationwide, ensuring that our vision for a sustainable fishing future includes a healthy marine ecosystem, a stable seafood supply chain, and a thriving new generation of community fishermen.