Western Pacific Council Director: Marine Monuments ‘Major Impediment’ to U.S. Fisheries

WASHINGTON, DC / ACCESSWIRE / May 1, 2019 / In testimony before a House subcommittee today, Kitty Simonds, the Executive Director of the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council (WPRFMC) labeled the increasing number and size of marine monuments a “major impediment” to U.S. fisheries. According to Ms. Simonds, these designations force fishermen to travel farther, longer, and at greater costs, with little conservation benefit.

Members of Saving Seafood’s National Coalition for Fishing Communities also submitted a letter to the Subcommittee, which was entered into the committee hearing record, asking that fishing inside of the marine monuments be managed under the Magnuson-Stevens Act, and that future monument designations include input from commercial fishermen. The letter notes that previous monument designations were made “with no formal public hearings, cost-benefit analyses, or input from affected constituents, and despite no compelling reason or threat to marine resources.”

“The Council process allows for stakeholders, scientists, and concerned citizens to review and debate policy decisions in a transparent manner,” the letter states. “In contrast, the Antiquities Act authorizes the president to take away public areas and public resources with no public input. Using executive authority, the President can close any federal lands and waters in an opaque, top-down process that too often excludes the very people who would be most affected.”

The letter was signed by 20 fishing organizations and 8 fishing vessels, representing fishermen from 11 states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island.

Ms. Simonds cited other negative consequences of the policy, including making it harder to prevent illegal fishing by foreign vessels in the U.S. EEZ; limiting, along with other closures, fishermen to operate in as little as 17 percent of the U.S. EEZ; and a decrease in the number of longline vessels and the amount of their catch.

“These prohibitions have forced our fishermen out of more than half of the U.S. [Exclusive Economic Zone] EEZ in the [Western and Central Pacific Ocean] and onto the high seas, where they are forced to compete with foreign fleets on the fishing grounds,” said Ms. Simonds in her testimony, delivered before the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife. “Currently 70 percent of the Hawaii longline effort is on the high seas. We also know, based on expert scientific knowledge, that forcing U.S. vessels out of U.S. waters has no conservation benefit to tuna and highly migratory stocks or to protected species.”

SOURCE: National Coalition for Fishing Communities

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