(NEW YORK – September 14, 2018) U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer joined renowned New York chefs today to celebrate the success of federal fisheries law in making American seafood more abundant and sustainable for fishermen, as well as for restaurants and home cooks in New York and around the nation.
Onboard Grand Banks, a historic fishing boat turned restaurant docked at New York City’s Hudson River Pier 25, chef Kerry Heffernan and other New York culinary leaders and fishing advocates thanked Senator Schumer for his leadership in protecting marine resources under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).
“The bipartisan Magnuson-Stevens Act is designed to ensure the bounty of the sea is available to master chefs, neighborhood restaurants, the hard-working people who work in the fishing boats, and family dinner tables alike,” said Sen. Schumer. “We have rebuilt depleted fish populations while giving fishermen a seat at the table when it comes to how fishing is managed, and the results benefit us all – especially those of us who love delicious seafood.”
Pending legislation would modify the landmark MSA, which has enabled the rebuilding of more than 40 fish species, while increasing jobs and revenue nationally. Chefs, conservationists, and fishermen gathered at the event expressed concern about these bills and applauded Sen. Schumer’s commitment to keep the law strong.
“While we must consider the needs of everyone who relies on our fisheries, it is crucial that our laws have the appropriate balance and flexibility ensure that future generations can enjoy delicious American fish, like summer flounder or striped bass,” said Sen. Schumer.
Healthy oceans and fisheries are critical to the New York economy. The fishing and seafood industry alone represents more than 40,000 jobs. Local and sustainable seafood continues to be a top dining trend according to the National Restaurant Association, and New York’s restaurant industry represents more than 800,000 jobs and $40 billion in economic revenue to the state.
“As a responsible chef, I take seriously my duty to support sustainable seafood and I honor past sacrifices by commercial and recreational fishermen to ensure the rebound of valuable fish stocks,” said Heffernan, a leading voice in the sustainable seafood movement, and avid fisherman. “All of us who rely upon America’s waters for food, livelihoods, and recreation need Congress to take just as seriously its role as steward of our oceans and protector of our regional seafood economies.”
Chef Heffernan was joined by a number of prominent restaurant and seafood industry leaders at the lunchtime event, which was cohosted by EDF Action, the advocacy partner of the Environmental Defense Fund. Speakers included Sen. Schumer; Chef Kerry Heffernan; Amanda Leland, Executive Vice President of Environmental Defense Fund; Charles Witek, leading recreational fishing advocate; Leigh Habegger, Executive Director of Seafood Harvesters of America; and Brendan Walsh, Dean of Culinary Arts at the Culinary Institute of America.
“At the Culinary Institute of America, we have both the responsibility and the opportunity to educate future chefs about the importance of sustainability in their purchasing, including supporting well-managed American fisheries,” said Chef Brendan Walsh, Dean of Culinary Arts. “Every chef can make a real difference by changing their buying habits and educating their customers.”
Attendees enjoyed multiple dishes made with fresh, American-caught seafood, including summer flounder caught in New York waters and red snapper harvested in the Gulf of Mexico. Both fish species recovered under the protections of the MSA.
After overfishing sunk the summer flounder population to record lows by the 1980’s, the population was declared rebuilt in 2011 thanks to science-based limits. The Gulf of Mexico red snapper population was at only four percent of its historic levels by the early 2000’s, but smarter commercial management has helped its numbers triple since 2007, and it emerged from overfished status just this year. Red snapper fishermen are now reporting revenues double what they were before adopting better management in 2007.
“The comeback of America’s fisheries is one of our greatest conservation success stories and it happened because we have a strong common-sense federal fishing law,” said Amanda Leland, Executive Vice President for Environmental Defense Fund. “The success of the last decade proves we can make things better for fishermen while rebuilding our oceans, but we must keep the smart, science-based policies that got us here strong.
In addition to chefs and conservationists, a number of fishing organizations and advocates have expressed concerns about the changes to the MSA proposed in pending bills.
“We have members from Alaska to Maine and down to Florida who supply fish to New York restaurants and grocery stores, so we know firsthand how much our nation depends on healthy, sustainable fisheries,” said Leigh Habegger, Executive Director of Seafood Harvesters of America. “Weakening safeguards in Magnuson-Stevens Act puts hard-won successes over the last two decades at risk for the sake of a few more fish today. We would like to thank Senator Schumer for his continued work to ensure the health and sustainability of our oceans and fisheries.”
“Those of us who fished thirty and forty years ago remember what the hard times were like before Magnuson-Stevens became an effective conservation and management law,” said Charlie Witek, a leading recreational fishing advocate. “We understand the law needs to be kept strong for the good of our fish, and our fishermen too.”
Press can access select photos from the event by clicking here.