Bipartisan House Vote Strong Win for American Fishermen, U.S. Fisheries Reform

May 30, 2014
Matthew Smelser, (202) 572-3272,

(WASHINGTON – May 30, 2014) In a strong show of bipartisanship, the U.S. House of Representatives early this morning beat back an attempt to deprive U.S. fishery managers of a tool that is helping to bring back fish populations and improve the livelihoods of fishermen across the country.

On a 185-223 vote, the House rejected an amendment by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) that would have banned development of the fisheries management tool known as catch shares in Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico fisheries. The amendment, which had on two previous occasions attracted majority support from the House, would have tied the hands of regional fisheries managers, preventing them from pursuing innovative management approaches and in some cases entrenching failed management systems. The vote came during floor debate on the FY15 Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bill.

A number of Members who had previously supported Rep. Southerland changed their position – a clear sign that lawmakers, like fishermen, are coming to understand catch shares’ benefits. As management change has proven successful on the water and sentiment on the dock has changed, more and more lawmakers are hearing from their fishing constituents about what catch share management offers.

“This bipartisan vote is a victory for American fishermen, coastal communities and sustainable management,” said Matt Tinning, senior director, U.S. Oceans Program, Environmental Defense Fund. “We are in the midst of a sea change in American fisheries. In many parts of the country we are rebounding from decades of failure thanks to innovative management approaches like catch shares that give fishermen the tools they need to succeed. In many fisheries, fish populations are rebounding, fishing opportunities and revenues are increasing, and coastal communities are seeing benefits.”

About 65% of all fish caught in U.S. federal waters are now under a management program called catch shares, which can help secure the health of fisheries and the livelihoods of fishermen. In the last 10 years, a period during which EDF has worked with local fishermen to reform management in many parts of the country, fleet-wide revenues have increased 68% and fisherman safety has improved three-fold, while the amount of fish allowed to be caught has increased 19%. The total allowable catch for Gulf of Mexico red snapper, once on the verge of collapse, has increased 120 percent since 2008, and many other species are also recovering. 

Catch shares is gaining widespread use across the country due to the economic and conservation benefits they deliver. They work by giving fishermen a direct stake in sustainable management of their fishery by setting a science-based catch limit and allocating portions of the total allowable catch among the fishermen.

“With the defeat of this amendment, fishery managers and local stakeholders have the opportunity to explore new management approaches that can deliver a more prosperous fishing future,” said Tinning. “EDF is committed to working with fishermen, managers and other stakeholders to take full advantage.”

Video of the floor debate:

The roll call vote (12:34AM; vote 261):

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