(Washington, D.C. February 13, 2013) – More than one hundred fishermen, chefs and seafood distributors from around the country are traveling to the nation’s capital today to ask members of Congress to give them the tools they need – namely to give fishermen the ability to catch fish sustainably through a fishery management tool called catch shares.
Teams of fishermen and chefs will meet with their members of Congress and ask them to fully fund catch share programs. Catch shares help eliminate overfishing and restore fish stocks by dividing the total scientifically approved allowable catch among the fishermen and ending short seasons and derbies. Catch shares have been proven to recover fish populations, increase compliance with catch limits, reduce waste, stabilize revenue and increase business efficiency.
More than 65% of all fish landed in United States federal waters are landed under a catch share fishing program providing a healthy ecosystem, fishing jobs, and a consistent supply of sustainable seafood.
Recently, catch shares have been under fire by some in Congress and special interests who have sought to take the authority to implement the tool out of the hands of local fishery managers.
The group of chefs is being led by Chef Rick Moonen, who is delivering a letter supporting catch shares management signed by notable chefs from around the country. Moonen has been a tireless advocate for sustainable fishing.
“Embracing the idea of serving my customers sustainable seafood has been a primary focus over the past 25 years of my professional career as a chef,” said Rick Moonen, chef/owner of rm seafood in Las Vegas. "Catch share programs naturally create an incentive for environmental preservation and species stewardship by the fishermen who rely on their health to succeed. Restaurants will then get to experience a more consistent supply of properly handled fish, more stable prices, longer seasons and more species diversity. Most importantly we need to provide the fishermen with the tools they need, like fully funded catch share programs.”
Currently, more than 87 percent of the world’s fisheries are overfished, and much of the fish consumed in the United States – roughly 90 percent – is imported. A recent survey by the National Restaurant Association found that fresh, local seafood is becoming increasingly important to consumers.
In their letter, the chefs say that catch shares have a proven track record of restoring fisheries and creating valuable sources of locally-caught sustainable seafood in the United States.
“Catch shares allow us to better utilize the fishery. We can fish year-round, earn higher prices for what we catch and provide consumers with a quality product,” said John Schmidt, a commercial fisherman from Palm Harbor, Florida. “Congress needs to know that many fishermen strongly support catch share management. And the reason we do so is because catch shares work. Congress needs to keep catch shares on the table and leave management decision to regional fishery management councils.”
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is committed to ending overfishing and is currently working with fishermen and fishery managers around the United States and the world to implement catch shares. “EDF believes that catch shares offer a solution that not only ensures the long-term sustainability of our oceans’ fisheries, but can help to preserve the business and sport of fishing for future generations,” said Matt Rand, Senior Campaigns Director for EDF’s Oceans Program.
Fishermen and chefs will meet all day Wednesday on Capitol Hill and then gather to recognize Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s First Congressional District as “Fishing Families Champions” for their service in pursuit of responsible management of our nation’s fisheries and their tireless advocacy for fishermen.