This week more than 100 fishermen, chefs and seafood distributors from around the country gathered in Washington, D.C. to talk with members of Congress about sustainable fishing and the need to keep catch shares in the tool box for our nation's fisheries managers.
Recently, some in Congress have attempted to take catch shares off the table for fishery managers, limiting regional councils' ability to make the best decision for their fishermen.
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.
In more than 115 meetings, the fishermen and chefs stood together to make it clear that catch shares are working, they are making American fisheries more sustainable and they have had positive impacts not only on fishermen, but the seafood industry.
Chef Rick Moonen of rm Seafood in Las Vegas delivered a letter to Congress signed by chefs from around the country, including Eric Ripert, Mario Batali, Hugh Acheson, Kerry Heffernan, and Susan Spicer just to name a few.
Chef Moonen made his support for catch shares clear while in Washington, D.C. In a press release distributed Wednesday, he said:
"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. 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."
Catch shares are making huge impacts around the world. More than 65 percent 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.
The full day of meetings culminated in a reception honoring Fishing Families Champions, where EDF recognized Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine for their tireless advocacy for American fishermen.
The fishermen and chefs certainly left their mark on Washington this week and everyone is hopeful that we'll see more champions like Sen. Murkowski and Rep. Pingree emerge. There is still work to be done, but America's local fishery management councils can't be limited by special interests in Congress from making what they believe to be the best decision for their fishermen.