Congress Introduces Legislation to Hold Federal Agency Accountable For Lost Fishing Jobs –

Congress Introduces Legislation to Hold Federal Agency Accountable For Lost Fishing Jobs Published:  05 August, 2011

This week Representatives Jon Runyan (NJ-3), Walter Jones (NC-3), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18) introduced the “Saving Fishing Jobs Act of 2011″, legislation which seeks to hold the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) accountable for fisheries management programmes called catch shares that have been detrimental to fishermen throughout the Eastern and Gulf Coasts.

The bill would require the Secretary of Commerce to terminate a catch share programme if it reduces the total number of fishermen in the programme by 15 per cent or more.  It also would prevent the government from imposing new catch share programmes on fishing communities that oppose them.  It would do so by requiring consideration of new programmes to be initiated only via a petition signed by at least 50 percent of fishermen in the fishery, and by requiring a two-thirds vote of fishermen for approval of new programmes.  Finally, the bill includes language to protect taxpayers from shouldering the extra costs associated with implementing and managing new catch share programmes.

The non-partisan consumer watchdog, Food & Water Watch has noted that if more catch share programmes are implemented, “…many traditional fishermen will be forced out of work, economies of their communities will crumble, there will be increased risk of harm to our oceans, and consumers will probably end up with lower-quality seafood (”

Catch share programmes have been controversial because many have resulted in the consolidation of fishing fleets, costing fishermen their jobs.  According to NOAA, one of the largest fisheries in the northeastern U.S. lost almost 20 percent of its boats in the first year (2009-2010) after a major catch shares programme was implemented across the entire region.

The Saving Fishing Jobs Act of 2011 is limited to the New England, Mid-Atlantic, South Atlantic, and Gulf of Mexico fishery management councils.