Tuesday, August 5, 2014

In the swim: Gulf State seafood catch safe for now

Businesses fighting to preserve commercial access to seafood fished in the Gulf states scored a big win this month when the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council deferred action on giving over an additional portion of that fish for recreational fishing.
The council voted July 24 not to enact Amendment 28, which would have allowed nearly 500,000 pounds of red snapper to be taken out of the commercial seafood market and given to the recreational sector in the next year alone.

“This is a very positive outcome,” said Stan Harris, president and CEO of the Louisiana Restaurant Association. “The work we’ve done over the last two and a half years, the partnerships we created with the state restaurant associations in the four other Gulf states, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA), has led to this victory, which not only ensures we will continue to serve the indigenous fish that comes from the Gulf, but also reminds people this resource belongs to everyone in the United States – not just the recreational side or commercial fishermen.”

The NRA and its Gulf state partners joined Share the Gulf, a coalition of chefs, restaurateurs, restaurant associations, seafood suppliers, fishermen, consumers and conservationists, last April to help protect commercial access to fish from the Gulf States. The initiative aims to ensure the region’s restaurants and grocery businesses maintain an equitable share of the region’s red snapper catch. In addition to the Louisiana Restaurant Association, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, Texas Restaurant Association, Mississippi Restaurant and Hospitality Association and the Alabama Restaurant & Hospitality Alliance joined forces on the effort.

Scott DeFife, the NRA’s executive vice president of policy and government affairs, said the NRA supports Share the Gulf’s work.

“The fresh, local seafood of the Gulf States is essential to the growth of this area’s economy and its varied foodservice businesses,” DeFife said. “We are committed to helping ensure that this seafood is not only fished sustainably so its population continues to grow, but that the voices of small businesses here, their employees and customers, also are heard. We are very pleased with the council’s decision on this issue.”

The NRA also engaged the governors of the five Gulf states to support local restaurants and restaurateurs in their quest to protect their access to the seafood, asking the governors to “stand with us and support the commercial fishing sector that supplies restaurants in your state[s] and throughout the country.”

“Everyone, from independent chefs to fishermen to state associations, local food advocates and conservationists has been really helpful," said Tim Fitzgerald, the EDF’s director of seafood market strategy. “The restaurant industry was essential in this engagement. They were some of the earliest and vocal supporters on this.”

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