House of Representatives
United States Congress
Washington, D.C. 20515
July 10, 2018
Dear Members of Congress,
On behalf of the Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) and our members, we are writing to you in strong opposition to H.R. 200, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act. This flawed legislation, scheduled for a vote on the House floor on Wednesday, July 11, would weaken core sustainability provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), our nation’s primary marine fisheries law. We urge you to vote no on both H.R. 200 and Amendment 6, authored by Congressman Garret Graves (LA-6).
The FCC is a coalition of community-based, small-boat commercial fishing organizations who share a strong commitment to sound conservation and the sustainable management of America’s fishery resources. We provide a unified, national voice for our members who represent the interests of more than one thousand fishermen and dozens of coastal communities from Alaska to Maine.
The United States has some of the best managed ocean fisheries in the world. This achievement is directly attributable to the MSA and the science-based management program it has created. Under the MSA, 44 once-depleted stocks have been rebuilt since 2000, and both the numbers of stocks experiencing overfishing as well as overfished stocks are at all-time lows. By all accounts, the MSA is not only working: it has been remarkably successful. This success has directly benefited our fishing communities: according to NOAA’s 2015 Fisheries Economics of the United States report, commercial and recreational fisheries generate $200 billion in sales impacts and support 1.6 million jobs.
H.R. 200 would undo this progress and imperil our fish, fishermen, and fishing communities. For example, H.R. 200 exempts some fisheries from catch limits, sacrificing long-term sustainability for short-term gains. This anti-science, anti-sustainability bill guts core conservation provisions of the MSA, dramatically weakening it and risking our success to date. This is not the first time we have fought this legislation. In fact, this is the third Congress in which the Natural Resources Committee has attempted to enact this bill. Although this legislation passed the House during the 114th Congress, it was never taken up by the Senate due to its contentious nature. Meanwhile, since this bill’s first introduction in 2014 and subsequent failed efforts to enact it, the number of rebuilt fish stocks has continued to increase and overfishing in United States waters has been virtually eliminated under the current MSA framework. These remarkable successes would not have been possible had any iteration of this anti-conservation bill had been signed into law.
Additionally, the FCC strongly opposes Amendment 6 from Congressman Garret Graves, which not only singles out two regions of our coastline—the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic—and its commercial fishermen, but also represents a dramatic and detrimental departure from how our marine fisheries have been managed. Through resource rents and royalties, this amendment opens the door to increased taxes on commercial fishermen in excess of the maximum amount they are legally required to pay. Additionally, by citing the need to address ‘conflicts of interest’—an issue already addressed by every regional fishery management council—the amendment targets commercial fishermen in these two regions and is designed to initiate a process that would lead to the elimination of commercial and charter-for-hire participation and representation on the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils. Simply put, the Graves amendment is a punitive, direct attack on Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic commercial fishermen with no benefit to the commercial or recreational sectors.
In summary, H.R. 200 and Amendment 6 would roll back decades of successful fisheries conservation and management by enacting changes that run counter to the MSA’s proven, science-based decision-making process. As active members of the national fishing community, we strongly oppose Congressman Graves’ Amendment 6 and H.R. 200, and urge the U.S. House of Representatives to vote no on both.