Posts Tagged Marine National Monuments

Sep 14 2016

Will Obama fence off more of the ocean? US fishermen are fearful

U.S. fishing boats that are crewed by undocumented foreign fishermen are docked at Pier 38 in Honolulu, on May 13, 2016.

U.S. fishing boats that are crewed by undocumented foreign fishermen are docked at Pier 38 in Honolulu, on May 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)


American fishermen are deeply fearful that the Obama White House could cut them off as early as this week from major fishing areas of the U.S. continental shelf on both coasts, further restricting one of the most highly regulated fishing industries in the world.

At stake are millions of dollars in fishing revenue and hundreds of jobs — and in some parts of the country, the survival of an embattled way of life that has persisted for centuries but is facing environmentalist pressures unlike anything before — and without  the chance for hearings and legislative back-and-forth that U.S. laws normally require.

“This totally affects us, but we don’t know what’s going on,” one fishing boat owner, who asked to remain anonymous, told Fox News. “We are just out of the loop. No one even wants to say what effect it will have.”

“They are throwing all fishermen under the bus, along with their supporting industries” declared Marty Scanlon, a fishing boat owner and member of a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries advisory panel on highly migratory fish species in the Atlantic. “They’ve done everything they can to put us out of business.”

What the fishermen fear most is the kind of unilateral action by the White House that they have already seen elsewhere. As part of their ongoing environmental ambitions, the Obama administration’s Council on Environmental Quality, and the president himself, are aggressively interested in creating preservation zones that would ban fishing and other activities within large portions of the 200-mile U.S. “exclusive economic zone” of maritime influence, and just as interested in getting other nations to do so, in their own as well as international waters.

That aim, supported by many important environmental groups, is cited as urgently required for protection against diminishing  biodiversity, overfishing and damage to coral and unique underwater geological features — not to mention the fact that with only a few months remaining in his term, the president sees such sweeping gestures as part of his legacy of achievements, and as the boat owner put it, “the window is narrowing” for the administration to act.

As one result, pressure from lobbying campaigns both for and against new declarations of such no-go zones both along the U.S. northeastern Atlantic coast and the coast of California have been mounting.

So has, apparently, behind-the-scenes maneuvering to get influential Democratic legislators to support such new preservation areas publicly — a tough call, since the affected fishermen are also constituents. So far, many of the Democrats are keeping a low profile.

One exception has been U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut — whose state does not loom as a major fishing center — who earlier this month vocally nominated  an area he called the New England Coral Canyons and Seamounts for preservation status.

Blumenthal was backed by some 40 environmental groups — but not by many of his neighboring Democratic Senate colleagues. Fox News emails to a number of  Democratic Senate offices regarding the issue went unacknowledged prior to this story’s publication.

A more specific  trigger for  the nervousness in fishing communities  is  the upcoming September 15 start of a two-day, State Department  — sponsored Our Ocean conference, which  has among other ambitions the extension of  marine preserves across greater areas of the world’s oceans.

More than 35 foreign ministers of various countries are expected to attend, and according to  a State Department official,  build on previous meetings that garnered international pledges of nearly $4 billion for ocean “conservation activities” globally, and also pledged to “safeguard nearly 6 million square kilometers” — 2.3 million square miles — “of ocean in Marine Protected Areas” — essentially, natural parks for marine life.

As the fishermen are well aware, two years ago President Obama dramatically kick-started the first-ever Our Ocean session by expanding the Remote Islands Marine National Monument by about 600 percent. He created a 140,000 square mile marine protected area northwest of the Hawaiian islands in which all commercial fishing and deep sea mining was banned.

Last month, Obama upped the ante once more. He expanded  the  Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, a protected area west and north of his native state, to the edges of the U.S. 200-mile exclusive economic zone. The latest move created  a 582,578 square mile preserve that is about double the size of Texas and West Virginia combined — and roughly a quarter of all the protected waters that the State Department claims its Our Ocean conference process has so far achieved.

According to Kitty Simonds, executive director of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council — a joint federal, state and private sector agency set up under U.S. law to prevent overfishing and manage fisheries stocks in that region — “someone sent us an embargoed press release” about the latest expansion a day before the announcement was made public.

Simonds, whose agency had previously called for a “public, transparent, deliberative, documented and science-based process” in advance of the proposed monument expansion, called it “unbelievable that the government is kicking U.S. fishermen out of U.S. waters when the fishery is healthy.” Simonds and a coalition of local supporters are willing to live with the expanded preserve so long as it still allowed fishing under the supervision of the existing management authorities.

Otherwise, she says, the restriction would force U.S. fishing vessels — about 145 of them — into international waters to make their catches, where they would compete against fleets from China, South Korea and Indonesia, among others, “that have lower fishing standards.” The move would also, she charged, increase fish imports — currently about 92 percent of consumption — rather than lower demand for seafood.

The fishermen point out that in terms of many larger food fish, such as tuna, the preserve areas are meaningless. The bigger fish roam oceans worldwide, and the long-line equipment used to catch them does not damage coral reefs or the fragile ocean bottom.

The monument designation also over-rode a 40-year-old, federally legislated process of managing fish stocks in all U.S. waters by means of fishery management councils like the Western Pacific agency. Eight councils were established around the country to manage fishing resources under legislation now known as the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act after its congressional sponsors.

The councils are hardly passive when it comes to conservation issues, and have prohibited a variety of restrictive fishing practices, as well as placing monitors on board fishing vessels to make sure catch rules are enforced.

Nonetheless, they did not speak to the kind of sweeping, surface-to-sea-bottom environmental protections, including for coral formations and deep sea habitats, that the marine preserve supporters, including President Obama had sought — even though opponents argue that fisheries management councils have even taken such issues as coral protection into consideration.

Just as in the administration’s 2014 action, the recent Pacific expansion announcement preceded an international meeting, this time with Pacific island leaders alongside the world congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one of the world’s most prestigious environmental organizations.

Obama attended the Honolulu session and told his audience at the start of the IUCN meeting that “Teddy Roosevelt gets the credit for starting the National Parks system, but when you include a big chunk of the Pacific Ocean, we now have actually done more acreage than any other president.”

What worries the fishermen is Obama’s Big Stick — the American Antiquities Act of 1906, a statute signed into law by Teddy Roosevelt that allows the president by decree to set aside “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.”

George W. Bush first used the act to set aside Pacific marine preserves related to World War II. But Barack Obama has used it at sea to create much more vast environmental sanctuaries, an approach widely advocated at home and internationally by major non-profit organizations like the Pew Charitable Trusts and the National Resources Defense Council.

The point of the upcoming Our Ocean meeting is to push those oceanic priorities even further, not only in terms of marine preservation areas but in expansive measures to combat illegal fishing, clean up pollution — including masses of ocean debris — and create further partnerships, both public and private, to carry on the effort.


As the conference website declares:  “The world has agreed [via the United Nations-sponsored Sustainable Development Goals] to a target of conserving at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, including through effectively managed protected areas, by 2020.  Through the Our Ocean conferences, we seek to help achieve and even surpass this goal.”

About specific additional maritime preserves, however, a State Department official queried by Fox News on the issue remained closed-mouthed.

“Many nations will be making announcements at the conference related to MPAs,” he said. “I do not have specific information about those at this time.”

The hush-hush also covers the past. An interactive map on the Our Ocean conference website promises to show “the impact of prior commitments,” on the world’s oceans, but revealed nothing at the time this story was published.

Read the original story:

Aug 29 2016

Letters: Why Does President Obama Want to Eliminate Sustainable Commercial Fisheries?

SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Letters] August 29, 2016


Dear Seafood News Editor,

“Help us identify Champions who are helping the ongoing recovery of America’s fishing industry and fishing communities,” Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Council of Environmental Quality Director Christy Goldfuss posted on the White House Blog on August 10.   They were appealing for nominees for this year’s White House Champion of Change for Sustainable Seafood.”

The blogpost had many complimentary things to say about our U.S. commercial fisheries:

“America’s fishers, and our seafood industry, have fed Americans and their families since our nation’s beginning. What’s more, this industry remains critical to the economic health and well-being of communities across the country.

“After decades of decline, we are witnessing the economic and ecological recovery of America’s fishing industry.  Overfishing has hit an all-time low, and many stocks are returning to sustainable levels. The U.S. fishing industry contributed nearly $200 billion annually to the American economy in 2014 and supports 1.7 million jobs.

“This shift did not come easy.  It took hard work, collaboration, and sacrifice by many across the country. Although there’s still more to do, America’s fisherman have led the way to the United States becoming a global leader in sustainable seafood management.

“This turnaround is a story about innovative ways to catch fish and other seafood sustainably, and connect fishers with their customers. It is a story about the value of science and management working together, and a willingness to make sacrifices today for a better tomorrow. And it is a story about sustaining a proud livelihood that is the backbone of so many coastal communities nationwide.

“President Obama and his Administration want to honor America’s fishers and our coastal communities for their efforts.”

We agree with everything Secretary Pritzker and Director Golfuss said.

Yet on Friday, August 26, President Obama announced he was expanding the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument off the coast of Hawaii, creating the world’s largest marine protected area. The fact sheet stated:  “Building on the United States’ global leadership in marine conservation, today’s designation will more than quadruple the size of the existing marine monument, permanently protecting pristine coral reefs, deep sea marine habitats, and important ecological resources in the waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands.”

But President Obama’s executive order, authorized under the Antiquities Act, also prohibited commercial fishing in an area increased by 442,781 square miles, bringing the total protected area of the expanded monument to 582,578 square miles.   This unilateral action happened without the transparency, science-based decision-making and robust public process trumpeted in the President’s own National Ocean Policy, nor the bipartisan Congressionally mandated Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), which requires fisheries to be managed under a transparent, science-based process administered by regional fishery management councils.

The announcement precipitated extreme disappointment from commercial fishermen and Council members alike, who decried the lack of science and economic pain inflicted on sustainable fisheries and fishing communities. “Closing 60 percent of Hawaii’s waters to commercial fishing, when science is telling us that it will not lead to more productive local fisheries, makes no sense,” said Edwin Ebiusi Jr., chair of the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.  “Today is a sad day in the history of Hawaii’s fisheries and a negative blow to our local food security.”

“It serves a political legacy rather than any conservation benefits …” said Council Executive Director Kitty Simonds.  “The campaign to expand the monument was organized by a multibillion dollar, agenda-driven environmental organization…  The President obviously chose not to balance the interests of Hawaii’s community, which has been divided on this issue,” she added.  Fisheries are the state’s top food producer, according the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

“Our party’s over,” wrote Sean Martin, president of the Hawaii Longline Association, but the monument lobbying effort continues on the east coast and off California, where well-heeled environmental advocates are lobbying to close productive sea mounts in New England, as well as most of the offshore seamounts, banks and ridges off the California coast, all of which are critically important to the long-term sustainability of commercial fisheries in those regions.

On both the east and west coast, fishermen, allied seafood companies and business interests as well as the regional fishery management councils have mounted vigorous opposition to the use of unilateral executive order under the Antiquities Act to manage fisheries.   They point to existing National Ocean Policy promises and the Magnuson Act, which require science-based decision-making and robust stakeholder involvement.  A transparent process that includes scientific and economic analysis and public involvement already exists through the MSA and fishery management councils.    Why not use it?

This Administration’s disrespect for Congressional mandate and its own ocean policies begs the question:  Why does this President want to curtail sustainable fisheries?

D.B. Pleschner
Executive Director
California Wetfish Producers Association

Michael Ramsingh 1-732-240-5330
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D.B. Pleschner is executive director of the California Wetfish Producers Association, a nonprofit dedicated to research and to promote sustainable Wetfish resources. More info at