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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions S. 1106

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

S. 1106. A bill to establish National Standards for Fishing Quota Systems; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I rise today with my colleague, Ms. SNOWE, to introduce the Fishing Quota Act of 2003, legislation to establish national criteria governing the use of individual fishing quota IFQ systems. Work began in earnest on this bipartisan bill in the Commerce Committee last spring, as the expiration of the national moratorium on the use of IFQs approached, and small boat fishermen voiced concerns that existing legislative criteria governing the use of IFQs would not offer sufficient protection to communities. I would like to thank Subcommittee Chair SNOWE for her efforts to work with me and with other members of the Commerce Committee on this legislation, which draws from separate IFQ legislation that both Senator SNOWE and I introduced beginning in the 106th Congress.

The IFQ moratorium established under the 1996 Sustainable Fisheries Act was set to expire September 30, 2000. Senator SNOWE and I supported a 2-year extension of that moratorium to allow for hearings and full consultation with affected groups on the issues surrounding IFQs. Our discussions focused on the need to provide regional flexibility to use IFQs as a management tool, while providing national "rules of the road." Such rules of the road would ensure IFQ systems developed after expiration of the moratorium are adopted with the support of the fishery, allocate quota fairly and equitably, address region-specific needs, further the conservation and management goals of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, prevent consolidation of quota, address the needs of small fishing communities, and recognize both the public nature of the resource and that issuance of an IFQ does not give rise to a compensable property right.

To develop such rules, we worked with fellow Commerce Committee members, including Senators BREAUX, LOTT, BOXER, STEVENS, and CANTWELL, consulted with interested groups, and obtained technical advice from the National Marine Fisheries Service. While New England has historically been opposed to IFQs, other regions are interested in utilizing IFQ programs in certain fisheries. I believe the resulting bill provides a balance between the need to provide national policy guidance that considers the concerns of communities and harvesters, but allows for development of IFQ systems, where appropriate, on a fishery-by-fishery basis. This preserves the balanced regional approach to fishery management that Congress intended in the Magnuson-Stevens Act. I also want to clarify that this bill does not authorize the establishment of "processor quota," and relates only to issuance of harvester quota.

The bill Senator SNOWE and I are introducing today sets forth a set of national criteria that councils wishing to adopt IFQs would follow. Importantly, this bill contains a provision that directs councils to consider the use of community or area-based approaches and strategies that would preserve the vitality of small fishing communities, including the allocation of quota to a fishing community. It also directs councils to consider use of other management measures, including those that would facilitate formation of fishery cooperative arrangements, taking account of the dependence of coastal communities on these fisheries.

This bill addresses many of the concerns raised by fishermen, and I understand the many concerns of small fisherman in New England regarding the use of IFQs. I believe this bill gives fishermen the power to decide whether to implement an IFQ program and ensures that those who do will operate under a fair system. First, no region could implement an IFQ system without approval of a two-thirds majority of eligible permit holders through a referendum process run by the Secretary of Commerce. In addition, any IFQ system developed under the legislation would have to meet a set of national criteria. These national criteria would include: (1) ensuring a fair and equitable initial allocation of quota, including the establishment of an appeals process for qualification and allocation decisions, taking into account present and historic participation in the fishery; (2) establishing limits necessary to prevent inequitable concentration of quota share; (3) preventing any person from acquiring an "excessive share"; (4) considering allocation of a portion of the annual harvest specifically to small fishermen, skippers, crew members, fishing communities, or categories of vessels or gear types; and (5) providing for revocation of quota if the owner is no longer an active fisherman.

I also believe this bill responds to concerns that IFQ systems would undermine the national interest in conserving fishery resources held in the public trust. In order to respond to those concerns, the bill would: (1) specify that an IFQ is a permit under the Magnuson-Stevens Act and does not confer any right of compensation or any right, title or interest to any fish before it is harvested; (2) established that the quota expires after 10 years, unless extended by a fishery management plan; (3) require that the systems promote management measures to improve the conservation and management of the fishery, including reduction of bycatch; (4) provide for regular review and evaluation of the system, including specifying actions to be taken for any failure to meet the criteria; (5) require that the systems provide for effective enforcement, monitoring, and management, including use of observers; and (6) require that quota be revoked from individuals found to be subject to civil penalties under section 308 of the
Magnuson-Stevens Act.

The bill also would require a 5-year recurring independent review of IFQ systems by the National Research Council, to: (1) evaluate the effectiveness of such systems and determine who the systems contribute to improved management, conservation and safety; (2) evaluate the social, economic and biological consequences of the systems, including economic impacts on fishing communities; (3) evaluate the costs of implementation; and (4) provide recommendations to ensure the systems meet Magnuson-Stevens Act requirements and the goals of the plans.

I believe this legislation provides guidelines for the use of IFQs that will help ensure the health of our marine fisheries. During the last reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, our Nation's fisheries were at a crossroads, and action was required to remedy our marine resource management problems, to preserve the way of life in our coastal communities, and to promote the sustainable use and conservation of our marine resources for future generations and for the economic good of the Nation. We must stay the course, and this bill will help us do just that. I remain committed to the goal of establishing biologically and economically sustainable fisheries so that fishing will continue to be an important part of the culture and economy of coastal communities throughout Massachusetts, as well as the economy of the Nation.

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