State management of red snapper hurts more than menus
Published in The Hill, May 31, 2015
By Brett Veerhusen and Dawn Sweeney
Seafood is more than just a staple in the American diet; it is the backbone of our coastal communities, a driving force in their economies, and an industry that provides jobs for 1.3 million Americans nationwide.
True red snapper is one of America’s most prized food fish, and it is caught predominantly by small, family-owned commercial fishing businesses in the Gulf of Mexico. Without these fishermen, red snapper would not be available in your local grocery’s fish case or on your favorite menu. Commercial fishermen caught 10 billion pounds of seafood in 2013 alone. Because of their efforts, restaurants across the nation are now able to source more locally harvested seafood.
Recently, the Gulf red snapper fishery has been a source of contention in Congress, as some members wish to undo the successes of commercial management by transferring management authority to the Gulf states.In early May, Rep. Garrett Graves (R-La.) offered an amendment that would grant five Gulf states exclusive management authority over the entire red snapper fishery. This action would threaten the availability of red snapper to local fishermen and restaurants across the country. This decision could also result in even more unsustainable overfishing by private anglers and set a dangerous precedent where states would have little incentive to be stricter than their neighbor – creating a “race to the bottom” effect.
This is why Seafood Harvesters of America and the National Restaurant Association oppose state control of red snapper. Such a plan would hurt small commercial fishing businesses and restaurants throughout the Gulf who locally source delicious, sustainable American seafood to millions of restaurant patrons.
Graves’ amendment would unravel the successes of America’s law governing our federal fisheries - the Magnuson-Stevens Act - a landmark piece of legislation Americans should be proud of.
It wasn’t that long ago that Gulf red snapper was in crisis. Years of chronic overfishing and mismanagement depleted the stock and there was little available to restaurants. Much of the progress we have made – cutting overfished stocks in half since 1999 – has been the result of accountable management under the Magnuson-Stevens Act. Today, our stocks are some of the best managed in the world. Just last month, NOAA announced an incredible 30 percent quota increase for red snapper. This means more American jobs and more seafood in our restaurants.
Undercutting the Magnuson-Stevens Act could drastically reduce consumers’ access to red snapper. The Graves amendment would hurt thousands of small businesses, American restaurants, and set a dangerous precedent for unraveling fishery protections around the country.
Keeping management authority under a transparent federal process will help restaurants across the country continue to provide locally-caught, sustainable seafood to our customers and allow our costal commercial fishing businesses to continue to grow.
Veerhusen is the executive director for the Seafood Harvesters of America, a broad-based national organization of commercial fishermen that represents 16 commercial fishing organizations coast-to-coast. Sweeney is the president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association.