Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME), John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), Scott Brown (R-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have announced the Fisheries Investment and Regulatory Relief Act (FIRRA).
A companion bill is expected in the House by Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Frank Guinta (R-NH). This bipartisan legislation would ensure that key programs critical to sustainably managing ocean fish populations, and the fishermen and communities that depend on them, would receive increased and sustained funding.
The bill would provide approximately $100 million annually for much-needed scientific research, monitoring, data collection, and assistance to fishermen and coastal communities by redirecting a portion of existing import duties on fish and fish products to support key programs.
“This legislation is long overdue”and we applaud Sens. Kerry, Snowe, Rockefeller, Brown, and Whitehouse for introducing it,” said Lee Crockett, Pew’s director of federal fisheries policy. “Our nation will finally have a secure base of funding exclusively for fisheries-related initiatives.”
Funds would be available through a competitive grant program and would promote local priorities for sustainable fisheries management and the preservation of fishing communities. Multi-stakeholder regional committees, authorized by the bill and appointed by the nation’s eight fishery management councils, would develop plans to identify priorities for investment in each region.
The committees would use those priorities to evaluate and recommend grants for funding. The secretary of commerce, who oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, would have final approval of the plans and decisions regarding the grants.
“The working men and women of America’s West Coast commercial fishing industry strongly support the FIRRA,” said Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations.
“For too long, we’ve managed our valuable fisheries on the cheap, with disastrous results. This bill finally provides a dedicated funding source for stock assessments, research, and support for fishing communities that are essential for healthy fisheries.”
“The strength of Senator Kerry’s bill is that it puts the decisions about what fisheries projects to fund in the hands of local fishermen and scientists who bring their regional perspectives and expertise to the issue,” said John Pappalardo, CEO of the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association.
“For-hire captains provide millions of recreational fishermen with access to U.S. fisheries every year, and these anglers spend millions on travel, lodging and food in coastal communities,” said Michael Miglini, the Executive Director of the Gulf-based Charter Fisherman’s Association.
“Yet, due to the tough economic climate and environmental threats like the 2010 Gulf oil spill, many of our businesses face an uncertain future. This bill will help by redirecting existing funding into the hands of local managers and fishermen so they can support the science necessary to make sound decisions that will increase fishing time, improve businesses, and ensure sustainable fisheries.”
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