A View from the Hill: July 2019

Capitol Hill

It has been several weeks since our last View from the Hill post, but much has happened within the halls of Congress, particularly in the House.

Much of May and June was focused on marking up and passing annual appropriation bills in the House. The full House Appropriations Committee marked up its FY2020 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) bill, the measure that funds NOAA and all of its programs. The Committee approved a $54 million increase to NOAA’s FY20 budget, with a 4% increase over FY19 numbers for the National Marine Fisheries Service. The bill can be read here, the bill’s report here, and a committee summary here. Notable specifics in the bill’s report include red snapper exempted fishing permits (EFPs) (page 27), national catch shares program, fisheries enforcement, marine habitat conservation and restoration (all on page 28), and the 2003 Pacific Groundfish buyback loan legacy issue (page 29).

Also in May, the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife held a legislative hearing on several oceans and fisheries-related bills. Two bills of note included the Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act, a bill by Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) that would prohibit the use of “large-scale driftnet fishing” in the EEZ and provide a transition program for fishermen to transition to other gear, and the Young Fishermen’s Development Act by Rep. Don Young (R-AK), a bill the Network strongly backs because it would support the next generation of fishermen along all coasts by creating a job-training grant program.

After Congress returned to DC from the Memorial Day recess, the full House considered and passed four ocean acidification bills, the first bipartisan legislation to address the issue in a decade. The bills passed include, HR 1237 – the COAST Research Act (Bonamici [D-OR]), HR 1716 – the Coastal Communities Ocean Acidification Act (Pingree [D-ME]), HR 1921 – the Ocean Acidification Innovation Act (Kilmer [D-WA]), and HR 988 – the NEAR Act (Posey [R-FL]).

And earlier this month, House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife Chairman Jared Huffman (D-CA) announced a national listening tour to hear directly from all the stakeholders in Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) reauthorization. Huffman will spend this fall touring the country holding a series of roundtable discussions with individuals who have a stake in management of our ocean and fisheries resources. It has been several years since such a process took place. The Congressman hopes to hold at least one roundtable discussion in each of the regions managed by federal fishery management councils and expects to introduce his bill by next spring. You can read Huffman’s press release here and the Marine Fish Conservation Network’s here.

Just a day later, Young introduced another MSA reauthorization bill, his third in as many Congresses. Surprisingly, this year’s bill (HR 3697) is almost identical to last year’s bill (HR 200), including provisions that actually passed into law at the end of last year, when a very stripped down version of the Modern Fish Act passed both chambers. This year’s bill is co-sponsored by freshman Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ). You can read Young’s press release here and Van Drew’s here. The Network strongly opposes this year’s bill, as we did last year’s.

On July 23rd, the Senate Subcommittee on Science, Oceans, Fisheries, and Weather, convened a hearing titled, “America’s Waterfronts: Addressing Economic, Recreational, and Environmental Challenges.” The hearing focused “on the current state of our working waterfronts, how we can balance stakeholder needs, and maximize the benefits from our water and coastal resources.” Lastly, yesterday, the same Senate subcommittee held an executive session to consider S. 496, the Senate’s version of the Young Fishermen’s Development Act. This bipartisan bill would establish a national grant program to support initiatives to educate, train, and mentor young and novice fishermen around the county.

So many fish cylinders firing here on Capitol Hill. We’ll continue to monitor all that’s happening in Congress and will update you on the latest developments in our next installment of a View from the Hill.

About Rob Vandermark

Rob Vandermark is the executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network.

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