Happy Holidays from our nation’s capital! As 2022 comes to a close, we’re looking back at significant actions that Congress took on oceans and fisheries policy this year.
- This week (12/19-25) is the last week of the 117th Congress. The text of the $1.7 trillion FY23 omnibus spending package was released just before 2:00am EST Monday morning. That bill text can be found here; a bill summary can be found here.
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated that the Senate will take up the final spending bill before Thursday. Once passed, it will go to the House for final approval before heading over to President Biden’s desk on 12/23.
- Also, NOAA has released its Fisheries Strategic Plan for 2022–2025. The plan tiers from the Department of Commerce Strategic Plan, which has one overarching vision: Helping the American Economy Grow. Read more.
Year in Review
Spring 2022 kicked off with a major omnibus spending bill, the America COMPETES Act, a bill that intends to enhance U.S. competitiveness with China by strengthening America’s supply chain, among other things. The bill included multiple provisions in the bill’s Natural Resources Section specifically of note to the Network, including ones that direct the Commerce Department to expand the Seafood Import Monitoring Program, establish the “Buy American Seafood Initiative,” combat illegal fishing, and create new programs and reauthorize funding for coral reef conservation, restoration, and management. You can read the bill’s nearly 3,000 pages here, or you can review it section-by-section here.
Most of the late spring and early summer Congress focused on passing the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (H.R. 5376). This historic spending bill included $2.6 billion to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for coastal and marine habitat conservation, with another $150 million to NOAA for constructing new facilities, piers, marine operations facilities, and fisheries laboratories, and an additional $50 million for facility construction to support the National Marine Sanctuary System. It also appropriated millions of additional funds for NOAA, including $20 million for reviews of planning, permitting and approval processes, $200 million for improvements in weather and climate forecasting and research, and $190 million for acquiring high-performing computing and data processing capacity.
Upon returning from the August recess and with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act behind them, Congress went to work on passing a short-term government funding bill that funded the government until December 16th, 2022. Passage of the end-of-the-year FY23 spending package and avoiding a government shutdown remains the top priority as the 117th Congress and 2022 come to a close.
In September, H.R. 4690, Sustaining America’s Fisheries for the Future Act of 2021, passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee. The bill’s markup lasted almost 7 hours with ample debate between the two sides and 17 amendments offered by the minority. The legislation aims to update and reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the primary law governing federal fisheries management and conservation. Read Chairman Jared Huffman’s press release here and watch the full committee markup here. H.R. 4690, as amended, was adopted and favorably reported to the House of Representatives by a roll call vote of 21 yeas and 18 nays. Bill text and amendments can be found here.
In October, Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland introduced the Seafood Marketing Act of 2022. The bill aims to reestablish the National Seafood Council and to run a national seafood marketing campaign “that promotes the public health benefits and sustainability of all seafood.” Read the press release here.
Alaskan fisheries were top of mind this fall as Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) completed analysis of the 2022 NMFS trawl survey for Bering Sea snow crab and determined the snow crab fishery will remain closed. Read the statement from Dr. Robert Foy, Science and Research Director at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center, here.
In addition, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA) released a committee report on Pebble Mine. The report asks the Attorney General to investigate Pebble Limited Partnership’s false statements to Congress and its attempts to mislead regulators about the scope of the project. The report recommends that the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers to revise their regulations and guidelines to crack down on sham permitting and explore legislative protections for the Bristol Bay watershed beyond the 404(c) Clean Water Act actions. Read the report and the press release here.
In early October, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) also released a Working Waterfronts legislative framework to support industries such as tourism, fisheries, and mariculture. Click here to view the Working Waterfronts framework. After reviewing feedback, we expect the Senator to take this framework back up in the 118th Congress. View the Network’s comments here.
In the final working weeks of the 117th, the final legislative push began on the annual must-pass National Defense Reauthorization (NDAA) bill. The bill includes several maritime and ocean-related provisions, including strengthened prohibitions on imported seafood caught in illegal and unregulated fisheries, and reauthorization and expansion of coral reef and marine mammal conservation efforts, amongst others.
On the administration side, climate change, tribal relations, and IUU remained top priorities. The Biden-Harris administration announced new actions by more than 20 agencies to bolster the federal government’s resilience to the worsening impacts of climate change. These actions are detailed in annual agency adaptation progress reports and highlight an administration-wide commitment to confronting the climate crisis by integrating climate-readiness across every agency’s mission and programs. Read the press release here.
For the first time, the Department of the Interior and NOAA held Tribal consultations with Alaska Native leaders and subsistence users on fisheries protection and restoration. Read the press release from DOI, which contains meeting specifics.
The U.S. Interagency Working Group on IUU Fishing, composed of 21 member agencies, released its wide-reaching National Five-Year Strategy for Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing. Read the press release here and the full report here.
Other relevant agency updates include long anticipated guidance on several recreational fishing issues, including NOAA Fisheries’ multi-year transition plan to support the use of Gulf state recreational fishing data in the federal stock assessment and management process. The Transition Plan for Gulf State Recreational Fishing Surveys outlines the agency’s multi-year plan to do this. Read more here.
Finally, NOAA published its first-ever Five-Year Strategic Plan for Aquaculture to guide the agency’s work from 2023-2028. The strategic plan was developed by the NOAA Aquaculture Program, which includes the NOAA Fisheries Office of Aquaculture, the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research’s National Sea Grant Program, and the National Ocean Service’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science. Find out more here.
As the end of the 117th Congress nears, avoiding government shutdown is on everyone’s mind. The House and Senate passed a one-week continuing resolution to keep the government funded through December 23rd. The Senate will take up the final bill of the 117th Congress, the FY 2023 omnibus budget. If passed in the Senate on December 21st, it will be sent to the House on the 23rd and, if approved, head to President Biden’s desk for signature.
Looking towards the 118th Congress, committee assignments will be announced in January. We expect the following changes within relevant House committees; on Natural Resources, Bruce Westerman (R-AR) will likely become chair with Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), on Energy & Commerce, Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) will likely become chair with Ranking Member Frank Pallone (D-NJ). Ocean-related Senate committees will likely stay the same, leaving Joe Manchin (D-WV) to remain chair of Energy & Natural Resources and John Barrasso (R-WY) to remain ranking member. With the retirement of both senior members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, we expect Patty Murray (D-WA) to become Appropriations chair and Susan Collins (R-ME) to become the ranking member.