Rep. Zeldin Hails Big Win for Long Island Fishermen
Washington, DC – Congressman Lee Zeldin (R, C – Shirley) just released the following statement regarding passage by the House of Representatives of the "Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act" (HR 1335):
“On Monday, June 1, 2015, the House of Representatives passed the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act” (HR 1335) with a bipartisan majority. Being privileged to represent the east end of Long Island, which is surrounded on three sides by saltwater, I voted for this bill’s passage. The legislation provides desperately needed reforms to our current fisheries laws that would reinvigorate the rapidly fading traditional heritage of saltwater fishing on Long Island and elsewhere, while sacrificing none of the environmental and economic benefits of continuing to rebuild coastal fish stocks.
The destructive impacts of rigid and arbitrary fish stock rebuilding timelines, which were imposed in 1998 under the “Sustainable Fisheries Act,” are painfully evident in New York’s Marine District. In the sixteen years since the implementation of the draconian ten year rebuilding mandate of that Act, the New York Marine District has hemorrhaged over 4,000 fishing related jobs and lost nearly $300 million in local fishing and seafood related revenue (with multipliers).
In addition, during the same time period our nationwide import/export ratio of seafood has essentially been stood on its head. In 1998, the U.S. imported approximately 55% of its seafood. Since the ten year rebuilding timeline was implemented, our imports of seafood have skyrocketed to 92% and exports have all but disappeared, causing catastrophic job loss and economic upheaval in our coastal communities. Considering that the U.S. has the ninth longest contiguous coastline in the world and has access to some of the world’s most productive fishing grounds, this enormous trade imbalance is a disgraceful slap in the face of our hard working fishing communities, and is a direct result of the overzealous implementation of this rigid and politically expedient ten year rebuilding mandate.
While the current policy has undoubtedly rebuilt some stocks, it has done so at the needless cost of tens of thousands of fishing families’ survival in coastal states throughout the country. A Pew Oceans Commission “white paper” published a poignant and painfully accurate summary by a Long Island fishing boat owner and advocate: “A ten year rebuilding timeline for overfished stocks may work fine for the fish, but to a fishing community, it may mean a foreclosed home, no money for a child’s education, a family on the brink, and a broken future.” (“Socioeconomic Perspectives on Marine Fisheries in the United States,” Pew Oceans Commission, 2003, quoting Bonnie Brady of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association).
Instead of the unnecessarily rigid ten year period we have been struggling under since 1998, the reforms introduced in this bill are based on science rather than idealogy. It would tie stock rebuilding timelines to species-specific reproduction cycles, in contrast to the existing arbitrary ten year mandate which ignores science for the sake of “feel-good” politics. The new rebuilding guidelines would allow fishery managers to effectively rebuild depleted stocks by considering the actual biological and ecological realities of each species, while at the same time providing the flexibility needed to restore economic growth opportunities for our beleaguered fishing communities.
Despite the tremendous promise this bill offers for desperately needed economic growth coupled with environmental sensitivity, President Obama has threatened a veto if he is presented with it. This knee-jerk reaction to common sense reforms is apparently triggered by a concern that this bill allows managers to consider the “economic needs of fishing communities.” The President is clearly unaware that the original purpose of the Magnuson-Stevens Act in 1976 was to improve the economics of American fishing communities, a purpose that has been subverted over the years. A veto would harm the job creation effort for our hard working middle-class.
Mr. President, before you pick up your veto pen, I invite you to Montauk, New York, in my district, which was formerly known as the “Fishing Capital of the World.” Please come and hear why this flexible and environmentally sensitive bill would help to assure the future prosperity and well-being of these families and their communities.”