Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. Thursday called for action on legislation he recently introduced that would help preserve the fishing industry that is so vital to the Jersey Shore economy and has recently been threatened by overly restrictive catch limits. Pallone's bill, termed the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2011, was cosponsored by Republican Walter Jones of North Carolina. It has bipartisan support in Congress.
"My bill addresses what I think have been some of the most egregious missteps by NOAA and other regulators over the years. These are necessary repairs to make the fisheries management process work again so that fishermen can continue to make a living," Pallone said.
Pallone's legislation has support from a broad coalition of commercial and recreational fishermen and in the small business community that relies heavily on the fishing industry.
The legislation addresses concerns about draconian cuts to quotas recently issued by the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Key provisions of the legislation make significant reforms to the fisheries management process including the following:
* Allow for extension of the timeframe for rebuilding a fish stock beyond 10 years under certain circumstances;
* Increase transparency in the process for developing annual maximum fishing levels by requiring a report describing the process and mandating public access to the report;
* Requiring that the economic and social impact statements be issued annually, include dollar amount estimates and look at projected impacts in addition to current impacts, and be prepared in conjunction with a council's fishing industry advisory committee.
Grants authority to the Secretary of Commerce to suspend the implementation of annual catch limits when a stock is healthy and the proposed restrictions are overly burdensome and not based in scientific information.
"The bill does a good job of addressing the problems with Annual Catch Limits and the Science and Statistical Committee process which is what we need to get our people out fishing again," said Jim Donofrio from the Recreational Fishing Alliance.
In 2008, commercial fishing generated $104 billion in sales impacts and $45 billion in income impacts. Recreational fishing supported $59 billion in sales impacts and generated $27 billion in value-added impacts.
In New Jersey alone commercial and recreational fishing supports almost 50,000 jobs.
"This bill is about making sure this industry continues to be sustainable, but the bottom line here is jobs and the economy," Pallone added.