Gulf of Mexico fisheries support an estimated $22.6 billion in seafood, commercial fishing and recreational fishing activity. That’s why Gulf residents pay close attention when a proposed bill in Congress threatens the marine resources we rely on. H.R. 1335, the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act,” would weaken the management of Gulf fisheries, and with it, the environment and the Gulf’s economy.
The bill contains several changes that, if enacted, would roll back progress made toward healthy and productive fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. H.R. 1335 undermines the use of science-based annual catch limits – which help prevent overfishing – for many important fish species. The bill also creates loopholes that jeopardize the success we’ve had to date in rebuilding depleted fish populations, such as the economically important red snapper. It would weaken environmental and public review of fishery management decisions and undercut the effectiveness of crucial national laws, such as the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, designed to ensure healthy environments and ecosystems. Lastly, the bill would take management of red snapper away from the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and turn it over to inconsistent, and often politically influenced, state management regimes. This measure would risk any progress we’ve made toward rebuilding red snapper populations Gulf-wide.
We simply cannot afford to weaken federal management of our fisheries and jeopardize their long-term sustainability simply to satisfy the short-term desires for higher catches by a few. I join with scientists, other conservationist and fishermen in opposing H.R. 1335, which is a clear step backwards in fisheries management.