Industry begins fight against Monterey Bay Aquarium's Portland Pact

Published on
November 8, 2018

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is preparing a campaign to recruit chefs from across the country to lobby the U.S. Congress to support measures that would hold fisheries accountable for overfishing and call for science-based decision making in the management process.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium advocates for greater sustainability in the seafood industry and operates the Seafood Watch initiative, which categorizes seafood items into one of three options: Best Choices, Good Alternatives, or Avoid. Its new initiative, called The Portland Pact, has not officially launched yet, said Erin Eastwood, an ocean policy program specialist for the organization, in a statement to SeafoodSource. 

“The Portland Pact is not about the election or partisan politics,” she said. “It is about supporting strong policies to ensure the sustainability of U.S. seafood now and for the future.”

However, seafood industry leaders have already initiated a countermeasure, saying the Portland Pact is trying to undo steps proposed in H.R. 200, a bill the U.S. House of Representatives passed in July that would reauthorize and make changes to the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA). 

H.R. 200, which has not been passed in the Senate, will need to be re-filed when the new Congress reconvenes in January if it’s not signed into law by then. Ryan Bradley, director of Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United, said he and other commercial fishing groups do not expect the lame-duck Congress to take up the MSA bill.

“We do not anticipate MSA reauthorization being a top priority for Congress, at least through the rest of this year,” Bradley told SeafoodSource.

The National Coalition for Fishing Communities, a commercial fisheries group, said the changes the bill makes to the MSA would enable regional councils to make decisions based on needs of the fishing community and changing ecological conditions.

In what it called an open letter to America’s chefs, the coalition called on chefs to consult with fishermen before agreeing to join the Portland Pact. It was signed by 15 industry leaders from across the country.

“American fishermen, like many American chefs, are committed to sustainable fishing and healthy oceans,” the letter stated. “Our businesses need sustainable, abundant fish stocks for us to make a living, and we all want a thriving resource that we can pass down to the next generation. We would never endorse a law that would threaten the long-term survival of our environment or our industry. That is why we endorse changes to the MSA that would ensure both.”

Eastwood said chefs support measures that would apply scientific measures to sustain fisheries and give stocks ample time to sufficiently rebuild.

“Chefs have been increasingly vocal in their support of sustainable U.S. fisheries over the last year, and our collaboration on the Portland Pact for Sustainable Seafood outlines the chefs’ support for the strong, science-based fishery management measures of the Magnuson-Stevens Act,” she said.

Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Fisheries Association

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