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




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.


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.

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.