Tag Archives: Congress

Dwindling winter steelhead are on their own again at Willamette Falls

With the first four dozen winter steelhead counted at Willamette Falls and scattered early catches reported in both the Clackamas and Sandy rivers, Oregon scientists, fish managers, anglers and others must helplessly hold their figurative breath. Sea lions, which chewed through as much as 25 percent of the dismal return of 2016-17 steelhead, pretty much have free rein this winter to repeat the carnage. “The impact, if left un-managed, will be pretty devastating,” said Shaun Clements, senior fish division policy advisor for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. click here to read the story 16:11

Bill introduced allowing Hawaii’s foreign fishermen onshore

Hundreds of foreign fishermen currently confined to vessels in Honolulu for years at a time would be allowed to come ashore when they dock under legislation introduced Thursday in Congress. The Sustainable Fishing Workforce Protection Act offers workplace protections a year after an Associated Press investigation found that Hawaii’s commercial fishing fleet is crewed by about 700 men who are never allowed off their boats, even when they come into the Honolulu Harbor to unload their catch. Sen. Mazie Hirono, “This bill provides necessary protections for foreign fishermen and ensures the continued viability of Hawaii’s longline fishing fleet, which is important to our culture,” click here to read the story 11:24

‘Time is of the essence’: California Fisheries face uncertainty

State regulators and fishing officials said at a Eureka hearing on Friday that only by working together can they overcome the trials and uncertainty that several California’s fisheries face today. With a poor salmon catch in 2017 and 2016 and a potential delay in the North Coast Dungeness crab season following three years of poor landings and abnormal ocean conditions, Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations Executive Director Noah Oppenheim said fishing fleets are still feeling the economic effects and that time to address the underlying issues is running slim. click here to read the story 08:46

Congress wants to ban the shark fin trade. These scientists think that’s a bad idea.

Florida has a few more days until increased shark fin penalties kick in, and Congress is considering a ban that would prohibit fin sales for the entire country. But a paper co-authored by two shark researchers argues that such a ban would be destructive to shark fisheries management tactics already in place. The act of cutting off a shark’s fin and dumping its body into the water, eventually leading it to bleed to death or suffocate, has been illegal in the U.S. since 2000. Senate Bill 884 increases the fines for those who cut the fins off sharks while on the water, or return to shore with a shark’s fin separated from its body. While Mote Marine Laboratory’s Robert Hueter supported Florida’s new law imposing stricter fines for finning, he said Congress aims to solve a problem that doesn’t exist in the U.S. click here to read the story 08:33

No West Coast fishery relief funds again in Congress’ $1.2T spending bill

For Yurok Tribe member Sammy Gensaw III, the divide between Capitol Hill and his hometown of Requa on the mouth of the Klamath River is measured in more than miles. The tribe and commercial fishermen across the West Coast learned this past week that the House of Representatives once again did not include fishery disaster relief funds in a $1.2 trillion spending bill it approved. The relief funds would aid fishermen who suffered major losses after the disastrous 2015-2016 crab season and 2016 salmon season. This year’s salmon season was even worse, with the forecast return of Klamath River Chinook salmon being the lowest on record. click here to read the story 10:22

Modern Fish Act: boon to recreational fishing or risk to U.S. fishery?

The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act sets strict, scientifically adjusted, annual catch limits on U.S. commercial, charter and recreational fisheries in order to sustain saltwater fish stocks, and is seen as a model of fishery management globally. The Modern Fish Act (MFA), a bill introduced in the U.S. House in April, would do away with limits on recreational fishermen, who argue they have no impact on fishery stocks. Environmentalists, however, say the MFA introduces legal loopholes that would allow for uncontrolled fishing at potentially unsustainable levels that could cause stocks to crash. Critics also say that the MFA muddies the waters between federal and state management, and allows political and economic considerations to override science in management decisions. The bill is still moving through Congress, and its chances for passage are presently unknown. click here to read the story 08:55

Congress Picks Sides on Trump Plan to Expand Offshore Drilling

President Donald Trump’s plan to expand offshore oil drilling spurred dueling letters from members of Congress last week, 118 of whom say the plan is critical for U.S. energy security, while 69 others doubt it — plus nearly 18,000 letters of public comment, most of them opposing expanded drilling. Only 6 percent of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf is available for leasing to oil and gas drillers from 2017 to 2022, under a drilling plan completed in the final days of President Barack Obama’s presidency. The shelf is 1.7 billion acres of submerged federal land from 3 nautical miles off the coastline, state-regulated waters, to 200 nautical miles out. click here to read the story 11:06

New Blue Catfish Regulation Threatening Health of Chesapeake Bay and Business

The blue catfish is putting up quite the fight and it’s making Delmarva crabbers like Ryan Crouch frustrated. A new federal regulation will make it harder for those who catch blue catfish to sell them. The more catfish caught – the better off the crab population and the livelihoods of the watermen who catch them. The regulation, which goes into effect in September, requires watermen to hire an inspector before the fish can be sold. Watermen like Crouch and business owners like Joe Spurry Jr. of Bay Hundred Seafood are fighting this new regulation. They say the more catfish out of the bay, the more crabs there are to catch. click here to read the story 10:02

Legislative Bills would open red snapper harvest out to at least 25 miles

Louisiana senators and representatives have introduced companion legislation in Congress that would give states management authority of red snapper out to 25 miles or 25 fathoms, whichever is greater, off their coastlines. Currently, states control red snapper out to nine nautical miles. Both Louisiana senators, Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, introduced the bill in the Senate, while Reps. Garret Graves, Cedric Richmond and Clay Higgins joined seven other representatives to propose the House bill. The legislation is designed to ensure Gulf of Mexico anglers have broader access to rebounding red snapper stocks during 2018 and beyond. This year, the Commerce Department gave recreational anglers 39 additional days in federal waters after NOAA Fisheries set a three-day recreational season. That move is being contested in court, and without legislation to address the issue, recreational anglers could be locked out of the fishery in 2018. click here to read the story 16:01

Oregon, Washington and tribes again take aim at sea lions in dispute over salmon

Congress is once again considering giving Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife officials and regional tribes broader authority to kill sea lions below the Bonneville Dam, an effort supporters say is necessary to protect 13 endangered species of salmon and steelhead. But unlike previous attempts to rein in the marine mammals, which are protected under federal law, the legislation goes beyond killing the dozens that converge each spring on the fish logjam at the Columbia River dam 145 miles from the Pacific Ocean. The bipartisan team behind the bill — Reps. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, R-Washington, and Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon — want to go much further. They also want to make it easier to kill California sea lions found on the Willamette River and its tributaries, and anywhere on the Columbia River east of Interstate 205. If the legislation is approved, as many as 920 sea lions could be killed annually, compared with 92 under current law. click here to read the story 08:54

Relief bills seek $140 million aid for California crab and salmon fishery disasters

California lawmakers introduced new legislation last week seeking to unlock $117 million in federal disaster aid for commercial fishermen and other business owners financially scarred by a series of catastrophic crab and salmon seasons threatening to upend the state’s fishing industry. North Coast representatives including Congressmen Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson, state Sen. Mike McGuire and Assemblyman Jim Wood, also have petitioned Gov. Jerry Brown to seek a disaster declaration for this year’s severely restricted salmon season, which already portends severe hardship with commercial fleets still in port.,,, Local fishermen, many of them proud and not especially trusting of government, said people who could use assistance aren’t holding their breath. click here to read the story 09:04

U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Decision on Reg That Will Put 60 Percent of New England Ground Fishermen Out of Business

On Friday, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s ruling last summer that a lawsuit filed by Cause of Action Institute (CoA Institute) on behalf of Plaintiffs David Goethel and Northeast Fishery Sector 13 against the U.S. Department of Commerce should be dismissed. In its opinion, the Court found that the fishermen’s suit was untimely and therefore did not consider the Plaintiff’s legal arguments that requiring fishermen to pay for monitors is against the law.  However, in a rare move, the judges highlighted the devastating economic impacts of the regulation in question, and urged Congress to clarify the law and who should pay for the at-sea monitors. “I am disappointed by the decision,” Goethel said. “But I’m hopeful that Congress will heed the Court’s direction and clarify the law. It is the government’s obligation to pay for these at-sea monitors.,, Northeast Fishery Sector 13 Manager John Haran said, “I’m disappointed that timeliness of the case was the Court’s deciding factor and not the merits of our arguments. The fishermen in my sector can’t sustain this industry funding requirement and many will be put out of business if this mandate remains in place.” click here to read the story 14:37

Congress to consider relief funds for California crab fleet as Brown proposes landing fee hike

Long-awaited federal funds to alleviate California’s crabbing fleet after last year’s dismal season could be approved by Congress as early as the next few weeks, according to California 2nd District Rep. Jared Huffman. Huffman (D-San Rafael) said Congress is set to vote on a supplemental budget appropriation to prevent a government shutdown in the coming weeks. He said he and a bipartisan group of legislators have signed on to a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urging them to include fishery disaster funds in this budget bill.,, Meanwhile at the state level, local legislators and fishing organizations are protesting Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to increase commercial fishing landing fees by as much as 1,300 percent in order to help close a $20 million shortfall in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife budget. continue reading the story here 16:09

Commercial salmon disaster funding awaiting congressional approval

When Washington’s congressional delegation pressured U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker into signing a disaster declaration for the state’s commercial salmon fishery, local fishermen were hopeful those funds would be making their way into local wallets by the middle of February. However, bitter battles concerning President Trump’s cabinet nominees have dominated Congress for more than a month, and the funding will not be distributed until Congress approves the funding and designates an entity that will be in charge of doling out the relief money. “My best guess is that until the turmoil in Congress settles down concerning President Trump’s cabinet nominations and Congress returns to a normal schedule, that’s where it will sit,” said Greg Mueller, president and executive director of the Washington Trollers Association. Continue reading the story here 08:11

Hooked Up!!! Sea lords and the secret votes that made them rich

The votes helped create the system that now allows 50 businesses and fishermen to control 81 percent of the nation’s commercial red snapper allocation. Those fishermen can make a total of $23 million every year. And the government gets nothing in return from the fishermen. “This is a public asset,” Congressman Garret Graves says. “You and I own this. The public owns this. You know, people always talk about [how] government needs to run like a business. Could you ever imagine a business saying, ‘Oh, here’s our inventory, and it’s free! You come in a grocery store, you take whatever you want.’ The vote predates Graves’ term in Washington. But last decade, Congress helped orchestrate it. The feds wanted to start what’s called an IFQ program, short for “individual fishing quota”. Fishermen would get an allocation to fish the entire year. Congress required three votes – first by a little-known public body called the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Management Council, an 11-member body that’s primarily appointed by the five Gulf states.  After the Gulf Council vote, Congress also required two votes by the commercial fishermen who already were permitted to fish for red snapper in the Gulf. And those are the votes that the federal government won’t let us see. Video, read the story here 11:09

Hooked Up!!! Catch Share Politics – ‘Sea Lords’ hook a congressional reformer

Steve Southerland agrees: He was something of a threat to some commercial fishermen. The former Florida congressman led the effort to change a federal program (catch shares) –  unknown to most taxpayers – that allows a handful of businesses and fishermen to make millions off a government resource, creating what some fisherman call “lords of the sea.” The government essentially decides who will be a successful commercial fisherman and who will not.” And it doesn’t matter how hard you work,” Southerland says. “It doesn’t matter, you know, how much money you have to… That you’ve borrowed. It’s all based on a philosophy. And if you believed in that philosophy, then you win.” Southerland took to the floor of Congress, trying to make changes. In response, the same commercial fishermen profiting off this government resource poured tens of thousands of dollars into the campaign account of Southerland’s congressional opponent. Those same fishermen contributed additional money to a political action committee called Ocean Champions that also went after Southerland. “I think that it was a group of fishermen that worked towards that,” says Galveston, Texas commercial fisherman Buddy Guindon. “Mostly guys out of Florida. I didn’t have much to do with it. I contributed a little money to them.” Video,  Read the story here 08:25

Zeldin: Congress needs to block president’s latest Marine Monument plan

112215_jpirro_zeldin_1280Recent Marine Monument designations proclaimed by the Obama Administration have been the largest in U.S. history. In 2016, President Obama declared a 490,000 square-mile area of water in the Pacific Ocean as a National Marine Monument after receiving little public input and through a process where transparency was severely lacking. As a result of this new monument, recreational fishing was severely limited and commercial fishing was completely banned, hurting fishermen in the Pacific Ocean. Now, important fishing areas in the Northwest Atlantic, where fishermen from Greenport, Montauk, and throughout the entire New York and New England region have worked for centuries, are under consideration for a National Marine Monument designation. As the president is pushing to apply this power to large areas of ocean in the Northwest Atlantic, he is threatening to shutdown thousands of square miles of ocean from Long Island fishermen. Read the rest here 15:55

Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance fights NOAA over aqua farms

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA)  decision to approve industrial offshore fish farming last month in federally protected waters in the Gulf of Mexico is a strong concern in a “delicate and restricted estuarine system,” according to a leading non-profit fisherman’s organization. Eric Brazer, deputy director at the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance, told the Louisiana Record that there are strong concerns with constructing an aquaculture facility of unprecedented size. The suit alleges that in a bid to push offshore fish farming forward without a new law permitting it, and get around Congress, NOAA created a permitting scheme through the Gulf Council by exceeding its authority to regulate fishing under the MSA. Read the rest here 09:44

WAIT!! That Coast Guard boats under 36 feet life raft rule that has you runnin’ like a fool? Its on hold!

life raft largeNew life raft regulations for fishing boats no longer required – Less than two weeks ago, U.S. Coast Guard officials were in Petersburg explaining new safety requirements announced in January: that fishing boats under 36 feet would have to carry life rafts if traveling more than three miles off shore. The law was supposed to take effect Feb. 26. Also, larger boats over 36 feet needed to upgrade their life rings or floats to life rafts by Nov. 1. But all that’s changed. “It’s all been put on hold,” said Steve Ramp, Commercial Fishing Vessel Examiner for the Coast Guard based in Sitka. He said Congress decided to repeal the change in safety requirements earlier this month. Read the rest here 19:59

H-2B guest-worker program under fire over salary discrepancies

With crawfish season just around the corner, Congress’ decision to quadruple the size of a guest-worker program might be described as a gift to Louisiana’s seafood processing industry, which struggles to fill the seasonal jobs each year. But a recent report from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute says the H-2B program amounts to little more than exploitation. Although employers and their lobbyists claim there is a shortage of these skilled and semi-skilled workers, wages for the Top 15 guest-worker occupations have remained flat or fallen over the past decade, said Daniel Costa, the institute’s director of immigration and policy research and author of the report. High unemployment rates persist in the top occupations, which suggests at the national level there are no labor shortages in those fields. Read the rest here 15:53

Thomas O’Malley, of Marshfield, joins Mark Alliegro in race to unseat U.S. Rep. William Keating

fishermen do vote“There’s a lack of common sense and nothing going on in Washington,” O’Malley said Monday about what prompted him to launch a campaign for Congress. “I want to bring common sense back to government.” Creating jobs in the district, easing government rules and regulations imposed on fishermen, stopping illegal immigration and strengthening the military to be “second to none” are major issues that should be addressed, O’Malley said. “He’s probably a nice man,” O’Malley said about Keating. “But I don’t think he’s done enough for the middle class and fishermen. He’s been in lockstep with the current administration and voted for the Iran deal, which has been horrendous for the U.S.” Read the rest here 08:26

Congressman Hunter calls for a ban on some American aid tied to South Pacific Tuna Treaty

This follows the end of the treaty arrangements when the US failed to pay its first quarter levy and the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency is no longer issuing licences to fish for tuna in the island countries’ waters.Hunter wants the US Congress to stop the US Government using congressionally approved funds as aid to the Pacific countries involved – which includes all the independent island nations in the region. Congress allocates about US$21 million dollars each annually to the US State Department as part of the federal government’s  under the Tuna Treaty. Hunter said it’s important to stress economic assistance does not occur on its own; it had always been tied to United States boats fishing in the Treaty area. Read the rest here 10:59

Courtney tells congressional subcommittee that plan would bankrupt Connecticut lobstermen

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District told a congressional subcommittee Tuesday that a proposal to transfer control of 155 square miles of federally controlled ocean to Rhode Island and New York jurisdiction would bankrupt Connecticut lobstermen, including those from Stonington and other southeastern Connecticut towns. “This is damaging people’s livelihood and I think we have to be a lot more careful in terms of how we as a Congress treat federal jurisdiction and people’s rights … If the plan passes, Courtney said Connecticut lobstermen would be shut out of fishing in Rhode Island waters because they are not residents while in New York they would have to try and obtain a non-resident permit through a costly auction process. Read the rest here 10:24

Don Cuddy – Fishermen fight back against government overreach

dave goethelI attended the hearing with John Haran of Dartmouth, manager of Northeast Fisheries Sector XIII which includes 32 fishermen. Sector XIII is a plaintiff in the case along with New Hampshire commercial fisherman Dave Goethel. The all-day hearing concluded without a ruling. Federal District Judge Joseph Laplante will issue a decision in his own time after deliberating on a legal case with potential ramifications not only for the fishing industry but with respect to any government agency’s attempt to increase its own power. Steve Schwartz, an attorney with Cause of Action, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on government overreach, represents the fishermen. He told the court that the scope of an agency’s power is determined exclusively by Congress and that NOAA lacks the statutory authority to require fishermen to pay for monitors. Read the op-ed here by Don Cuddy 07:33

The NOAA Oversight Project – Fisherman’s FOIA’s Squeeze NOAA

email3From Dutch Harbor to the Old Harbor Float in Petersburg, from Gloucester and all the way round to Corpus Christi, wherever Americans untied their boats to fish in the decades since the Magnuson Act passed, fishermen had to take on science, politics, and NOAA. Some of you spent your shore time up to your knees in fish politics dividing the stock or arguing with managers about areas or days at sea. Because you engaged in politics, new generations of kids setting and hauling gear can still catch fish. Sort of– Sit down, put a mug up, and read this expose. You will be shocked. Read the article here 16:28

Members of Congress urge disaster relief for Dungeness crab fishermen

cashIn a bit of good news for California’s beleaguered crab fishermen, four members of Congress announced Tuesday they would call for federal disaster relief in the unlikely event the state’s commercial fishing season for Dungeness crab is canceled altogether.In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown, the representatives urged the governor to “stand ready” to ask to provide compensation to fishermen and businesses if the crab season — postponed indefinitely Nov. 6 because of high levels of a biotoxin called domoic acid,,, Read the rest here 06:39

Gulf officials argue for shift in managing Red Snapper fishery

635814669385764673-zales-pictureGulf Coast officials, joined by charter boat operators from Mississippi, are urging to pass legislation that would shift management of the red snapper fishery to states, saying they would do a much better job. “The fisheries management by the federal government is not a good one, especially as it relates to red snapper in the Gulf,’’ Robert Barham, secretary of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, told the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans.  “We can do a better job.” “No way shape or form do we want the states to manage our commercial and charter fisheries for red snapper,’’ Buddy Guindon said. Read the rest here 09:31

Battle to Restore Apalachicola Bay Heads to Congress

The proposal is the latest development in Florida’s 25-year dispute with Georgia and Alabama over the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system, which the three states share. It also comes as Florida is suing Georgia in the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that too much water is being siphoned off upstream, damaging the economically vital oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. Until recently, its commercial and recreational fishing industries generated $200 million a year and supported the vast majority of the local population. Read the rest here 09:57

Our View: White House putting politics ahead of fishery science

Bait Bag ObamaSomething happened Monday that made us wonder if there wasn’t finally some progress being made in fisheries management. About 150 businesses, organizations and individuals with interests in the fishing industry on the East, West and Gulf coasts expressed their support for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee work on reauthorizing the act that regulates. After years of losing battles with regulators, of finding too many deaf ears in Congress, of jaw-dropping incredulity over what appeared to be indiscriminate or capricious management that has decimated the Northeast groundfishing fleet, we thought it remarkable to read their letter to the committee chairman: Read the rest here 08:00

Congress must protect Louisiana’s shrimping industry – “Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act” (HR 1907).

Consumer Reports found banned antibiotics on samples of imported shrimp collected from the shelves of major retail chains, such as Kroger, Wal-Mart, and Costco. The illegal trade schemes that allow tainted shrimp to evade food safety laws and reach our dinner plates are the same fraudulent trade practices that jeopardize our local shrimp industry, which sources from natural, sustainable stocks that do not need antibiotics. That is why Louisiana’s shrimp consumers and,,, Read the rest here 09:49