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National Restaurant Association - Chef: Keep red snapper fishery under federal management

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Chef: Keep red snapper fishery under federal management

A Louisiana-based chef told a House subcommittee that transferring control of the red snapper fishery from the federal government to the five Gulf states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas could reduce the amount of the fish that is available to restaurants.

The Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act, which has been introduced in the House, would transfer authority of the red snapper fishery from a stakeholder driven, transparent federal management system to a state management system. The restaurant community and the fisherman who supply them believe this could reduce the number of fish that can be caught and sold to restaurants. The National Restaurant Association opposes the Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act (H.R. 3094).

Haley Bitterman, corporate executive chef and director of operations for the New Orleans-based Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, testified on behalf of her restaurant and the National Restaurant Association that the current federal management has been successful in restoring the red snapper population and ensuring that restaurants have access to a steady, sustainable supply of the fish.

“Unfortunately, in the Gulf, we have watched a huge number of our popular seafood items become import-only or recreational-only fish,” Bitterman said in testimony before the House Subcommittee on  Water, Power and Oceans. “Red snapper…used to be rarely available as a fresh fish before the commercial fishery improved its management and began the individual fishing quota program in 2007. Now, I have the opportunity as a chef and business person to not only vouch for the fish being sustainable and wild-caught, but in some instances, the fish is actually traceable back to the fisherman who caught it.”

The Gulf States Red Snapper Management Authority Act, Bitterman said, would threaten to undo the progress that has been made in restoring the red snapper population. As written, she said, the legislation would allow the reallocation of almost 10 percent a year of red snapper catches away from the commercial fishing sector, expanding the quota that can be caught by recreational fishers. The change could force many restaurants to stop serving the fish, because not enough will be available, she said.

“I know that customers come to the Gulf Coast to experience our bounty of delicious, sustainable, Gulf seafood, especially the iconic red snapper, which is one of our most popular dishes,” Bitterman said. “Snapper is part of our heritage and our history and, as a recreational fisherman myself, I want to be sure it is available for generations to come.”

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