June 2, 2016 — The following was released by the National Coalition for Fishing Communities:
UPDATE: A previous version of this release mistakenly omitted a statement by the American Bluefin Tuna Association. Additionally, since the original release, the American Scallop Association has endorsed the ASMFC resolution. The release has been updated to reflect these changes.
WASHINGTON (NCFC) — The most valuable fishing port in the U.S. – New Bedford, Mass. – and eight major fishing groups from Florida to Massachusetts are backing an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) resolution opposing current proposals for a monument off the coast of New England. The fisheries most likely to be affected by a National Monument designation inside the continental shelf, including the valuable red crab, swordfish, tuna, and offshore lobster fisheries, have all come out in support of the ASMFC resolution.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, is in New Bedford today, where he will hear from regional stakeholders about the negative effects a monument would have on commercial fisheries.
Multiple environmental groups have been pushing the Obama Administration to use executive authority under the Antiquities Act to designate an offshore monument in the Atlantic. Earlier this month, the ASMFC unanimously approved a resolution urging the Administration to forgo a monument designation and instead allow the current management process protecting ocean ecosystems to continue. If the President decides to create a monument, the ASMFC resolution asks that it be seaward of the continental shelf, only prohibit bottom tending fishing, and that any plan be available for public review before it is implemented.
In a letter to the White House, the American Bluefin Tuna Association (ABTA) expressed concern that a monument designation would eliminate all forms of fishing in the protected areas. “Given that our fishing gear has no negative impact on deep sea coral, a proposed prohibition on the fishing methods we employ would be arbitrary, completely unnecessary and would result in significant negative economic consequences,” ABTA wrote.
A monument declaration may have devastating economic impacts on New Bedford as well. The mayor of New Bedford, Jon Mitchell, has come out strongly against a monument and praised the ASMFC resolution in a statement, saying he “applauds the ASMFC for asking the White House not to establish a marine monument off the coast of New England.”
East Coast fishing groups that may also be severely impacted by a monument designation, including many members of the National Coalition for Fishing Communities (NCFC), are lending their strong support to the ASMFC resolution. One fishery that could suffer if it is prohibited from fishing in a monument area is the red crab fishery, valued at over $15 million.
“Rarely in the history of New England commercial fishing have we seen the entire industry and its regulatory bodies unite behind a single cause,” said the New England Red Crab Harvester’s Association in a statement. “Yet with its recent unanimous vote on the marine monument designation, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission joined industry leaders in sending a clear message to the Obama administration: the current monument process poses a serious threat to effective ocean management, and would have disastrous environmental and economic impacts.”
The Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF), which represents members of the Atlantic sea scallop fishery, supported the ASMFC resolution in a letter to the White House. FSF argued that a monument designation would contradict the President’s own Executive Order 13563, which states in part that regulations should be based on the best available science, involve public participation, and include coordination across agencies.
“Public areas and public resources should be managed in an open and transparent manner, not an imperial stroke of the pen,” FSF wrote.
Other groups that have publicly supported the ASMFC plan are the Garden State Seafood Association, Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, Southeastern Fisheries Association, North Carolina Fisheries Association, and American Scallop Association. All of these groups are members of NCFC, which provides a unified voice for fishing groups and businesses. Similarly, the Blue Water Fishermen’s Association, which is not an NCFC member, wrote to the White House opposing an Atlantic Monument.