WASHINGTON – March 15, 2017 – The following was released by the National Coalition for Fishing Communities:
Today, New Bedford, Mass. Mayor Jon Mitchell delivered written testimony to the House Natural Resources Committee on behalf of Saving Seafood’s National Coalition for Fishing Communities. His testimony expressed serious concerns about the impacts of marine monuments, designated using executive authority under the Antiquities Act, on fishermen and coastal communities.
Mayor Mitchell had planned to testify in person before the Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans as a representative of the NCFC, but was unable to attend the hearing in Washington due to snow and severe weather conditions in the Northeast.
In his testimony, Mayor Mitchell questioned both the “poorly conceived terms of particular monument designations,” as well as “more fundamental concerns with the process itself.” Mayor Mitchell also delivered a letter to the committee signed by eleven NCFC member organizations further detailing their concerns with the monument process and how fishing communities across the country are affected by monument designations.
The letter was signed by the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association, the California Wetfish Producers Association, the Fisheries Survival Fund, the Garden State Seafood Association, the Hawaii Longline Association, the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, the Menhaden Fisheries Coalition, the North Carolina Fisheries Association, the Southeastern Fisheries Association, the West Coast Seafood Processors Association, and the Western Fishboat Owners Association.
In addition, three NCFC member organizations, the Atlantic Offshore Lobstermen’s Association, the Hawaii Longline Association, and the North Carolina Fisheries Association submitted individual letters outlining in further detail their opposition to marine monuments.
Mayor Mitchell was also critical of the monument designation process, by which a president can close off any federal lands or waters on a permanent basis using executive authority under the Antiquities Act. He instead praised the Fishery Management Council process created by the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which he said affords greater opportunities for input from stakeholders, scientists, and the public.
“The monument designation process has evolved effectively into a parallel, much less robust fishery management apparatus that has been conducted entirely independent of the tried and true Fishery Management Council process,” Mayor Mitchell said. “It lacks sufficient amounts of all the ingredients that good policy-making requires: Scientific rigor, direct industry input, transparency, and a deliberate pace that allows adequate time and space for review.”
Mayor Mitchell used his testimony to call attention to issues affecting fishing communities across the country, including New England fishermen harmed by the recently designated Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, and Hawaii fishermen harmed by the expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. He also expressed the concerns of fishermen in Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Pacific waters in dealing with the monument process.
Mayor Mitchell concluded by calling on Congress to integrate the executive branch’s monument authority with the established processes of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, ensuring that the long-term interests of all stakeholders are accounted for.
“This Congress has an important opportunity to restore the centrality of Magnuson’s Fishery Management Councils to their rightful place as the critical arbiters of fisheries management matters,” Mayor Mitchell said. “Doing so would give fishing communities much more confidence in the way our nation approaches fisheries management. And it could give the marine monument designation process the credibility and acceptance that it regrettably lacks today.”
The mayor spoke at the hearing on behalf of the NCFC. The city of New Bedford, as Mayor Mitchell stated in his testimony, was instrumental in the founding of the Coalition, providing an initial seed grant for its creation.