H.R. 3697, Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act

On July 11, 2019, Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK) introduced H.R. 3697, the “Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fishery Management Act.” Such introduction marks the fourth time that a bill bearing the same title, and similar provisions, was introduced in the House of Representatives.

H.R. 3697 is substantially similar to H.R. 200, which Rep. Young introduced in the 115th Congress, and was subsequently passed by the House of Representatives. The only difference is that Section 502 of H.R. 200, which was titled Report on Limited Access Privilege Programs and Conflicts of Interest with Respect to Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Ocean Red Snapper, was not included in H.R. 3697.

However, five sections of H.R. 3697, dealing with the allocation of landings between the commercial and recreational fishing sectors, “alternative” fishery management measures, limited access privilege (“catch share”) programs, and various aspects of data collection were just passed into law last year when S. 1520, the “Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2018,” was signed into law at the conclusion of the 115th Congress.

Many of the remaining provisions of the Van Drew-Young bill would weaken the conservation and science-based management measures of the Magnuson-Stevens Act by creating substantial exceptions to the timelines for rebuilding overfished stocks, creating additional exceptions to the annual catch limit requirements, and reducing the quality of the science used to assess and manage fish stocks. Other provisions would make minor amendments to the fishery management process in Alaska, outlaw shark feeding in Florida, excuse states from their obligation to remediate damage to submerged aquatic vegetation caused by channel dredging, exclude some marsh restoration efforts in Louisiana from habitat protection requirements, create a local exception to striped bass fishing in federal waters, and create a program to encourage the killing of lionfish.

Because it would roll back many of the successful conservation and science-based management provisions in the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Network does not support the Van Drew-Young bill.