Southerland Schooled At Fish Hearing

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

Last Saturday, the House Natural Resources Committee held a field hearing in Panama City (at Cong. Steve Southerland’s request) ironically titled, ““Fishing = Jobs: How Strengthening America’s Fisheries Strengthens Our Economy.” The irony comes from the fact that Southerland’s agenda is to dismantle conservation tenets in our nation’s fisheries law (Magnuson-Stevens) that are strengthening fisheries today.  However, even though Southerland stacked the witness panel with his plants, he couldn’t stop the truth from coming out: Magnuson-Stevens and catch shares are working for fish and for fishermen.

, the overfishing limits in Magnuson-Stevens combined with catch shares management have taken Gulf fisheries from threatened to thriving, and have saved fishing businesses and jobs in the process.  Waters said,

“With all due respect, we don’t need Congress taking us back to the failures of the past. We need you to help us address the changes of the future. . . . Do not turn back the clock, help us conserve our fisheries and jobs for tomorrow.”

“We have a system that is working, or else we wouldn’t be here fighting.”

After Waters testified, a huge group of Gulf commercial fisherman (all wearing orange shirts that read, “Keep catch-shares on the table, Keep fish on the table”) cheered heavily.  One of their group shouted, “We got our word in,” a clear reference to the the panel’s uneven representation.

All this begs the question, “Who is Congressman Southerland trying to help?” He claims to represent fishermen, but commercial fishermen from his own district are telling him to stop messing around with the rules that are allowing their businesses (and the fisheries) to thrive. 

“Under Magnuson-Stevens, our fisheries are rebuilding and are healthier than they’ve been in a long time. Our jobs are stable and more secure than they were before we were held accountable to each other through annual catch limits and accountability measures… We’re closer than ever to making overfishing a thing of the past. Why would we want to change the rules just when we’re starting to win the game?”

Well, maybe Southerland only wants to represent recreational fishermen, but as , he doesn’t represent all of them.  Warren says,

“As a longtime recreational fisherman who supported changes in our nation’s fishery law to address decades of overfishing, I see Southerland’s field hearing as more about rolling back the clock to those bad ol’ days.”

Maybe Southerland is just out of touch, or maybe he’s just pushing his own self righteous agenda.  , saying,

“One of Congressman Southerland’s favorite phrases is that we have a “God-given right” to our natural resources. Whether he realizes it or not, we live in a world of limits. If we were given any right at all, it would be the right to respect and preserve our environment and the resources it nurtures, and the fortitude to not seek short term profits while foregoing long term gains.”

Again, Southerland is somewhat ironic in his approach.  As a Tea Party Republican, he espouses a “get government out of our lives” philosophy.  However, with his own constituents telling him to leave their fisheries alone, he continues to meddle, trying to impose his own DC-based top down control of a local resource.  Fortunately, the Gulf fishermen showed up to his hearing to set him straight.


Date Posted: August 27, 2012 @ 6:55 am Comments Off

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

As you know, the big news this week was Congressman / Senate Candidate Todd Akin’s – shall we say unenlightened – comments on women.  The blowback was deservedly huge, with Republican Party leadership calling for him to step out of the race (which he summarily rejected).  The immediate effect on his own race was big. Polling has had him slightly ahead of incumbent Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill since March, but a Rasmussen poll conducted just after Akin’s comments showed McCaskill up 48 – 38.

The issue (and opinion) Akin expressed appears to be sticky and is becoming a problem for GOP candidates in other races (BTW, if you want to see Akin’s equally uninformed views on climate change, click here).  We don’t know yet whether this will impact any of the races where we’ve endorsed a Democratic candidate against a far right Republican, but we’ll be watching.

Quick update on the New Mexico Senate race (on which we’re heavily engaged):  Congressman Martin Heinrich continues to receive good news.  Despite even more SuperPAC attacks, a Rasmussen poll that came out this week again shows him to be up 48 – 41 against former Governor Heather Wilson.  This was confirmed by an internal poll, which had Congressman Heinrich up 51 – 44.

No other new polls of note have come out, but as a quick aside, if you don’t think elections matter for the oceans, .  Mr. Clements has picked up on our tag for Congressman Steve Southerland, calling him Ocean Enemy #1, and outlining some of the bad stuff he’s done on fish issues lately.  Think how much better we’d be if Florida’s second district had a good ocean Rep in place instead of Mr. Southerland…

Date Posted: August 24, 2012 @ 1:32 pm Comments Off

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

Happy Friday, Champs!  In keeping with our new tradition, here’s the latest intel on some of the key races for ocean politics:

Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as a running mate may not appear to have any relationship to building champions for ocean conservation, but it just may.  The DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) has found that the Ryan budget is highly unpopular in some critical swing races and is beginning to play it up.  In New Jersey’s third district, where we’ve endorsed challenger Shelley Adler against incumbent Congressman Jon Runyan (a really, really bad guy on ocean issues), the DCCC is calling voters to let them know that Runyan voted FOR the Ryan budget, and its changes to Medicare.  This race is close, with most insiders giving the edge to Runyan, but we’ll see if this tactic has any impact.

In addition to New Jersey, the Ryan budget is being highlighted in California’s 52nd District where we just endorsed challenger Scott Peters against ocean bad guy, Congressman Brian Bilbray.  Bilbray voted for the Ryan budget as well, and polling has found that 35% of independent voters and 42% of swing voters were opposed to this plan.  Previously, polling showed Bilbray behind “Anyone else” by a count of 51-42.  Peters is a strong candidate and an excellent ocean champion, so hopefully these trends will continue.

Florida held its primary this week, setting up two important races.  First, we found out state Senator Al Lawson will be the Democratic challenger to Ocean Enemy #1, Congressman Steve Southerland in Florida’s 2nd District.  Lawson beat his closest challenger (Leonard Bembry) 52 – 28 and is a strong campaigner.  Stay tuned for lots more as we get busy in FL-2!

In addition, the Florida Senate race is now set, with Congressman Connie Mack winning the right to challenge incumbent Senator Bill Nelson.  Both Nelson and Mack have been endorsed ocean champions for years, setting up the first head to head matchup of champions since we started in 2004.  A Rasmussen poll conducted just after the primary showed Senator Nelson with a 47 – 40 lead over Congressman Mack.

Hawaii also held its primary last week, and Ocean Champions-endorsed Mazie Hirono beat Ed Case to earn the right to face Republican primary winner Linda Lingle.  A pre-primary poll conducted by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (the same poll that correctly predicted the margin of victory for Hirono against Case) showed Hirono up on Lingle by 19 points (58 – 39).  That gives us hope, but we expect this to be a close race with lots of Super PAC activity, and we’ll be doing everything we can to help Congresswoman Hirono.

A poll from environmental groups was just released for the New Mexico Senate race, showing Ocean Champions-endorsed Martin Heinrich opening up a 9 point lead on Republican candidate Heather Wilson.  Most recent polling has showed Congressman Heinrich up by 4 – 6 points, so it appears that Congressman Heinrich is weathering the $1.7 Million Super campaign against him.

That’s all for now.  Keep checking out our list of endorsed candidates as they’ll be new announcements each week, and check back on Fridays for the election updates!


Date Posted: August 17, 2012 @ 9:27 am Comments Off

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

As November approaches, we’re working harder than ever to take back Congress for our oceans by electing 40 champions and beating ocean enemies.  We’ve announced a number of endorsements recently, and you’ll continue to see more each week through September.  With all that activity, I thought it’d be good to give periodic updates on key races where we’ve made an endorsement, starting today!

First off, Washington state just wrapped up its primaries (all candidates run; top two advance to the general).  We endorsed three new candidates in the state, and two won their primaries outright (Derek Kilmer and Denny Heck).  These guys will be strong, strong champions and they’re well positioned for the general.  One of our endorsed candidates, Darcy Burner, finished third and thus won’t advance.  Fortunately, Susan DelBene, another Democrat who will advance to the general also has the potential to be an ocean champion.

Congresswoman Lois Capps is in the fight of her life after redistricting.  With only the general election before her, she’s facing a strong challenge from former Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado.  Maldonado has released internal polling that shows him down only 2 points (48 – 46), while Democratic party polling has Capps ahead by 11.  We’ll be watching this closely, as Congresswoman Capps is one of the strongest ocean champions in the House and we need to protect her.

Another champion impacted by California’s redistricting is Congressman John Garamendi. Initial polling has Garamendi in front, but redistricting gave him an almost entirely new constituency, and according to Charlie Cook, dropped the Democratic performance of his seat by 10 points.

On the Senate side, we’re paying close attention to New Mexico and Hawaii, key races where we’ve endorsed two current House members with great ocean track records.

In New Mexico, polling consistently shows ocean champion Martin Heinrich with a 5 point lead over Heather Wilson, but the state is a Presidential election toss up, and SuperPACs have already started hitting Congressman Heinrich.  Fortunately, Heinrich is a strong campaigner and his poll numbers have improved slightly during the attack.

All eyes will be on Hawaii on Saturday for the state primary.  Our endorsed champion for Senate, Congresswoman Mazie Hirono must withstand a Democratic primary challenge from Ed Case if she is to compete in the general against former Governor Linda Lingle.  A recent Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll showed Hirono with an 18 point lead over Case, and an internal campaign poll confirmed those findings.  Case is pointing to a Hawaii Civil Beat poll that shows him 1 point ahead, although the

We’ll keep you all up to date throughout the summer and early fall because elections truly do matter for our oceans.

Date Posted: August 10, 2012 @ 10:58 am Comments Off

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

Happy World Oceans Day!  On this day when we celebrate the beauty, wonder and importance of our Mother Ocean, I’d like to thank all of our friends in the ocean community who fight to keep her healthy and thriving.

Thanks to the great people in the , , The Marine Conservation Institute, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Surfrider Foundation, Oceana, the Pew Foundation, the Ocean Foundation, and many others.  We’re all in this together.

I’d also like to thank all of our friends who attended our fundraiser for Congresswoman Lois Capps and who donated online – the Congresswoman was thrilled to have such great support from the ocean community! By the way, it’s not too late to donate…

And that brings me to the subject of elections, and the fact that they really, really matter for healthy oceans.  Quite simply, if we don’t elect people who understand and care about sustainable ocean policy, it won’t matter how many times we call, write or meet, as we’ll be ignored.  Elect enough champions, however, and we can win.

On that note, thank you (and congratulations) to Congressman Sam Farr, who fought against incredible odds to get his yesterday (the Senate version also passed Committee, so we’ve got a chance to get something done here)!  Thanks to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who passed the National Endowment for the Oceans and is now working to get that great bill included in Conference Committee.  Thanks to Senator Olympia Snowe, who’s Harmful Algal Bloom bill just might move this year.  We’re working on all those issues, but without these great champions, they’d never see the light of day.

Congratulations are also due to champions who won important primaries this week, like Congresswoman Lois Capps, Congressman Sam Farr, Congressman John Garamendi, Congressman Mike Honda, Congresswoman Mary Bono-Mack, and Congressional candidate Jared Huffman.  The fight isn’t over as many of these champions still face very challenging general elections, but we’ll be working to help them win again in November.

Which takes me to my last point.  On World Oceans Day, make a commitment to Vote the Ocean, because it will make a difference.

Date Posted: June 8, 2012 @ 11:13 am Comments Off

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

ELECTIONS MATTER, as we like to say often at Ocean Champions.   Building political power for the oceans means getting involved in electoral politics – financially supporting and endorsing champions in Congress that will fight for ocean health, and working with them to advance pro-ocean policy.  It also means defeating ocean enemies.

We’re thankful to Clare Leschin-Hoar for drawing attention to what we’re doing at Ocean Champions and spreading this message in her blog post yesterday.  This is a message that must be heard, and, who better to hear it from than Ocean Champions’ President and Co-Founder, David Wilmot.  Excerpt from Clare’s blog, “Many that support us don’t love the political dynamics today, but they recognize that if you want to have an impact on public policy, the way you do that is to reward those who help you, make sure they’re elected, and make sure they’re there to fight for you,” Wilmot tells TakePart.  “It’s just not enough to have the science and to spread the message.  You mush have added that additional layer of direct political engagement.”

If we want healthy oceans, healthy marine life, healthy sustainable seafood, thriving coastal communities and jobs, we must elect those who will champion ocean health in Congress and fight for pro-ocean policy, and, we must defeat ocean enemies.  We can never forget that the ocean provides half of the oxygen we need to breathe  – just that alone is worth fighting for, don’t you think?

Date Posted: May 31, 2012 @ 1:57 pm Comments Off

Posted by: Mike Dunmyer

Recently, you’ve heard a lot from us about the need to protect sustainable fishing policies (that are working).  In a related issue, you’ve heard us talk about our campaign to beat Congressman Steve Southerland (R-FL), who is trying hard to obliterate these important programs.  Not surprisingly, we aren’t the only ones who feel this way, and today, I’d like to present the views of a Florida Gulf Coast commercial fisherman named John Schmidt.

John will tell you that the Magnuson-Stevens Act’s regulations that are ending overfishing in U.S. waters are one of the greatest achievements of American will in recent memory, and that Catch Shares work.  He’ll also tell you that those frameworks enabled his business to thrive, and that Steve Southerland’s policies would destroy Gulf fisheries and his business.  John says it a lot better than I do, however, so I’ve included this Op Ed he wrote for the Tampa Bay Times:

Local Solutions Work for Fishing Industry and Consumers

John Schmidt

As someone who has been fishing in the Gulf of Mexico for more than 25 years, I’m exasperated by the actions of some in Congress like Rep. Steve Southerland who are working to destroy the livelihoods of myself and hundreds of other hardworking Gulf fishermen.

Earlier this month, Southerland, a Republican who represents Florida’s eastern Panhandle, wrote in The Hill newspaper about his God-given freedom to fish.

God-given freedoms in civilized societies come with responsibilities.  Sport fishermen want more fish, and so do the 97.3 percent of Americans who are simply consumers.  Healthy fisheries are the only way that this can happen. Our country should be celebrating the innovative management in recent years that finally has reversed depletion and began rebuilding our fisheries. But Rep. Southerland wants to stop that and its economic benefits in its tracks.

As someone who relies on the God-given resources in our oceans to make a living, I have seen first-hand that healthy fisheries are essential. Just like a healthy bank account produces more revenue, healthy fisheries produce more fish. Because of our rebuilding efforts, for the past several years managers have been able to increase allowable catches of red snapper at the fastest pace ever.

In his essay, Rep. Southerland expressed his support for defunding catch share programs. This innovative management system has proven vital to rebuilding our fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Equally important is that we now have systems in place to assure our fisheries stay healthy.  These are among the best fishery management success stories in our nation’s history. Twenty years ago we would never had dreamed that we could provide fresh domestic seafood year-round while rebuilding our fisheries and our jobs at the same time.

In 2005, as the Gulf Council tried to restore our fishery with conventional management, our season was cut short and restaurants had to take grouper off the menu.  Fishermen sat at the dock for one-third of the year because managers hoped that would help rebuild the stocks, yet overfishing still happened. Fish prices were among the lowest in the United States, leaving more than 70 percent of fishermen with incomes below poverty level. Quality was poor because of gluts caused by fishermen catching all they could during the open season. Imports increased to fill the void caused by the closed season.

Things were so bad that the biggest players in the industry developed a federally underwritten “Buyout Plan” to eliminate the 600 smallest businesses from the fishery. The command-and-control management system the government was using wasn’t working. The future of fishing was bleak unless we changed something drastically. The “Buyout Plan” proved wildly unpopular with the 600 fishermen who were being eliminated. It was eventually abandoned, and fishermen looked for a better solution.

The catch share system was the fairest solution that didn’t force fishermen out. We worked with federal managers and the regional Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to establish our own program.  At the local level — not through federal mandate or expanded regulations — we established individual fishing quotas (IFQs) that would enable us to spread out our fishing season and rebuild our fishery at the same time. In 2009, 81 percent of qualified fishermen voted in favor of an active fishery management program that was focused on rebuilding our grouper stocks. In 2010 the Grouper catch share program took effect as a companion to the red snapper catch share program.

Now, for the first time in history we have year-round sustainable fishing jobs and no closed season. The fishery is more valuable because we provide fresh grouper throughout the year.  The product is the best it has ever been.  Fresh fish has become a reality again in our region.  Competition from foreign imports is down, and restaurants are putting fresh Gulf Grouper back on the menu.

The solution that fishermen forged locally is working better than anyone visualized. In spite of this success, Rep. Southerland is determined to prevent fishermen and regional councils from considering this solution for foundering fisheries. He wants to micromanage fishermen from his office in Washington.

Instead of taking away control from local fishermen and regional councils, we need stay on track with the rebuilding programs and science improvement efforts. Fishermen and regulators need the freedom to develop tools that increase access to fisheries while still conserving the resource.

Rep. Southerland should leave fisheries management in the hands of fishermen and regional councils.

John Schmidt is a commercial fisherman from Palm Harbor and a member of the Gulf Fishermen’s Association.

Date Posted: May 1, 2012 @ 9:19 am Comments Off

Earth Day Aloha to our Newest Champion Mazie Hirono

Posted by: Chris Laughlin

On Earth Day, we recommit to protecting our precious planet and glorious Mother Ocean. 

In that light, we are proud to announce our endorsement of .  Congresswoman Hirono knows that clean water, healthy beaches, sustainable fisheries and thriving coral reefs are not just important on Earth Day; they’re a part of Hawaii’s cultural heritage and are necessary for a healthy state economy.

As a member of the House of Representatives, Congresswoman Hirono has cosponsored legislation to prevent expanded offshore drilling, clean up ocean garbage, and protect coral reefs.  She supports implementation of the National Ocean Policy and cosponsored its legislative precursor, Oceans-21, because she knows that improved ocean governance is needed to protect, maintain and restore ocean and coastal resources for the future.  Congresswoman Hirono is also active in the House Ocean Caucus, and the Congressional Marine Sanctuary Caucus, demonstrating an ability to work across the aisle to find common ground on important issues.

As the Congresswoman noted, “For hundreds of years, Native Hawaiians relied upon the Pacific Ocean to develop a sustainable way of life.  Unfortunately, Hawaii has strayed from this wise use of our ocean resources, and we have become too dependent on other countries and the mainland for our food and our energy.  Like Ocean Champions, I am committed to a more sustainable and secure Hawaii future that supports our local fishing industry and wisely invests in home-grown energy sources including ocean energy, biofuels and wind.  I welcome the endorsement of an esteemed group like Ocean Champions, which clearly understands the importance of sustainable ocean ecosystems that promote the well-being of the people of Hawaii and reduce our dependence on foreign countries.”

In addition to her strong track record, the Congresswoman is a very effective legislator, and we’re confident that she’ll rise quickly in the Senate to provide the leadership needed to protect clean coastal water, thriving fisheries and healthy coral reefs.

Date Posted: April 23, 2012 @ 10:35 am Comments Off

Posted by: Kelly Malinowsky

Almost two months ago today I accomplished a life-long dream that I have had for over 24 years: to live by the ocean.  After a week’s long drive from , I turned onto the 101 and stole my first glimpse of my dream, accomplished. The dark-blue and teal tides waved as I continued to my new home in Monterey. The saltwater scent rushed into the car as I inched closer.  Arriving three blocks away from the ocean, I hurried down to the shore and tasted the salty water in disbelief. After 24 years, I had made it!

Monterey, CA

Growing up in Michigan, frequent trips to the Great Lakes nurtured my love for water. Many summers were spent vacationing alongside Lake Huron’s shores with family in Port Austin, Michigan’s “tip of the thumb.”  When I saw the ocean for the first time, at age 5 with my mom in the Bahamas, the vastness of the ocean amazed me. We swam with dolphins and I instantly decided to become a Marine Biologist. I couldn’t wait to discover what other amazing life forms existed below the seemingly simple surface.

Myrtle Beach, SC

Now living in Monterey, with my home three blocks from the ocean, I feel a completeness that I never had before, even while living close to the Great Lakes. There is something to be said about the human connection to the ocean, a feeling of connectedness, of calmness, of completeness.

Surrounded by an ocean-conscious community, I have learned of the many threats our oceans face today, that need immediate attention, and affect so much life that we as humans haven’t even discovered yet (let alone our own).  When I think of my personal connection with the ocean, and all of the present-day issues facing our oceans due to human behavior, I feel an urgency to act.

Though I am two years away from working on ocean conservation as a career, there are things I can do now, small steps YOU can take every day, to improve the health of our oceans. Buy , educate yourself on these very real, immediate ocean issues, reduce your carbon footprint, and energy-use, use fewer plastic products and help keep our beaches clean, and support organizations working to protect the ocean, and take action!

Most importantly, take a walk down to the beach, put your feet in the sand, breathe in the air, and think of your own personal connection to the ocean. What can you do today to ensure future generations can have this same experience?

Date Posted: March 27, 2012 @ 12:00 pm Comments Off

Posted by: Sam Meehan

At Ocean Champions, we’re fortunate to work with a group of highly dedicated, energetic problem-solvers in Washington. We are honored to support these pro-ocean candidates. However, our framework for success also involves going after some of the worst anti-ocean members of Congress. In 2006, we targeted California Representative Richard Pombo, whose atrocious environmental record led various publications to describe him as “an eco-thug” and “an enemy of the Earth.” California League of Conservation Voters CEO Warner Chabot claimed, “Having Pombo represent a district that includes Yosemite National Park is like electing Godzilla as mayor of Toyko.” Ocean Champions played an important role in crafting and executing a successful campaign that tossed Pombo from office. Now, as our environment is in more need of protection than ever, we’ll be going a bad guy once again. This year, there are plenty to choose from, and in this blog post we’ll profile two of them: freshman Representatives, Steve Southerland of Florida and Jon Runyan of New Jersey.

Congressman Southerland, who was just awarded an abysmal 6% rating in the League of Conservation Voters Scorecard, has been hard at work attempting to cripple the EPA’s ability to enforce clean water standards. Some of Southerland’s lowlights:

  • Introduced H.R. 3856, the State Water Partnership Act, which seeks to obstruct the EPA’s ability to set basic nutrient content standards.
  • Voted in favor of an amendment to the Continuing Appropriations Act that would have blocked the EPA from implementing new safety standards for Florida’s water (the state has been one of those worst hit by Harmful Algal Blooms).
  • Voted in favor of H.R. 1938, the bill designed to bully President Obama into signing a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • Voted in favor of H.R. 1229, a bill which would expand lease sales for offshore oil drilling and scale back already anemic safety standards on oil rigs, barely a year after the Deepwater Horizon disaster blanketed his home state’s beaches with oil.

New Jersey’s Third District has a long history of support for ocean conservation.  Previous representatives John Adler (D) and Jim Saxton (R) were both endorsed ocean champions, but Jon Runyan has brought a screeching halt to that tradition. Given a paltry 20% rating in the latest LCV Scorecard, Runyan’s voting record articulates a clear anti-ocean stance, even though his home district is dependent on tourism attracted to local beaches.

  • Runyan voted in favor of (along with clean-water foe Steve Southerland) H.R. 2018, another bill designed to curb the EPA’s ability to establish and enforce basic water standards.
  • Voted in favor of the Keystone XL bill.
  • Voted in favor of H.R.s 2021 and 1229, two bad bills that would expand offshore drilling, cut back safety regulations, and exempt companies from having to implement available pollution control technologies.

This November, it will be more important than ever to stand up for the future of our oceans. In addition to supporting our allies on the hill, we will also be taking the fight to a bad ocean enemy. We hope you’ll fight with us by engaging in ocean politics more than ever before.  Together, we can help build a more pro-ocean Congress.

Date Posted: March 21, 2012 @ 10:12 am Comments Off

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