The FCC responded to policy riders found within the FY16 House and Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) Appropriations Bills (H.R. 2578) by highlighting their concerns in a letter addressed to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Appropriations Committee and members of the CJS Appropriations subcommittees in the House and Senate. 


November 6, 2015

Chairman Thad Cochran and Ranking Member Barbara A. Mikulski

Committee on Appropriations

 

Chairman Richard C. Shelby and Ranking Member Barbara A. Mikulski

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science

 

Dear Chairmen and Ranking Member,

We write today to urge you to reject all extraneous limitations related to funding fisheries management in the Gulf of Mexico in any Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) Appropriations Acts or any continuing resolution considered by the House and Senate.

The Fishing Communities Coalition (FCC) represents over 1,000 conservation minded, community based, small boat, commercial fishermen from around the country, including the Gulf of Mexico, who advocate for strong fishing communities. We depend on the well-established, transparent, and inclusive fisheries management process prescribed in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) to ensure that our views are considered. We work tirelessly to promote thriving commercial fishing communities and sustainable seafood access that is built on healthy fish stocks and responsible stewardship. 

We are concerned that the FY16 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill (H.R. 2578, Sec 556) and the Senate Substitute (H.R. 2578, Sec 109) both contain ill-advised provisions that propose to prohibit funding for federal fisheries management in the Gulf of Mexico and subvert the MSA fisheries management process. They are the result of a small, but powerful, special interest group looking to undo the current management regime that has led to the successful rebuilding of the red snapper resource simply because they want a bigger share of the fishery.

The rider contained in the House bill (H.R. 2578, Sec 556) is designed to override the decisions made by the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Council) related to red snapper management. The Council process, which is required to consider the best available science, include all stakeholders, and develop fishery management plans (FMPs) unique to each fishery, has been successful in rebuilding and maintaining healthy fish stocks in our nation’s waters. We oppose this rider because it effectively voids the Council process, is detrimental to the long-term viability of the Gulf of Mexico fish stocks, and sets a dangers precedent for other regions.

The rider contained in the Senate Substitute (H.R. 2578, Sect 109) extends the state maritime boundaries of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi out to 9 nautical miles. This provision overrides the Submerged Lands Act of 1953 and could nullify Sec 306(b) of the MSA, which allows the federal government to preempt state management if it is found to be “substantially and adversely affect[ing] the carrying out of such fishery management plan.” Extending state boundaries is not a solution to the red snapper controversy and would create a number of unintended consequences related to oil and gas exploration, management of fishery resources, further shortening of the federal recreational red snapper season, and application of federal statues such as the Clean Water Act.

These riders represent a concerted effort by special interest groups to override our nation’s overarching fisheries management authority. Under the MSA, 37 depleted stocks have been successfully rebuilt and only a handful remain subject to overfishing. These successes were achieved through a science-based, transparent process involving all stakeholders, including our communities of hard-working fishermen. These riders, if passed, will seriously harm fisheries management efforts in the Gulf of Mexico and set dangerous precedents for the rest of the nation. Please support the MSA and its proven management processes by rejecting all riders associated with the red snapper and any further attempts to undermine the MSA from any final FY16 Appropriations Acts of continuing resolution.

Sincerely,

The Fishing Communities Coalition