Signaling progress in the consideration of two bills authored by Congressman Frank Pallone Jr. to bolster the fishing industry, the House Committee on Natural Resources will hold a hearing on the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act and the Coastal Jobs Creation Act of 2011 on Thursday. Both pieces of legislation make urgently needed reforms in current law that have made it increasingly difficult for fishermen to make a living.
The Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act enjoys bipartisan support in Congress and within the commercial and recreational fishing industries, which is especially important because the reforms included in the legislation are long overdue. Key provisions in the legislation allow for an extension of the timeframe for rebuilding a fish stock beyond 10 years under certain circumstances, increased transparency in the process for developing annual maximum fishing levels and requiring fisheries managers to use an improved system of data collection, the Marine Recreational Information Program.
The bill also will allow the Secretary of Commerce to suspend restrictive fisheries management measures when there isn't the science to back it up and requires the Secretary to mitigate adverse impacts fisheries management is having on coastal communities and businesses.
"Our coastal communities need help today because current conditions threaten a way of life for generations of fishermen on the Jersey shore and across the country," said Pallone. "There are many ways we can help these communities by concentrating on the industries that are dependent on the ocean. These are necessary repairs to make the fisheries management process work again."
In 2009, the commercial fishing industry supported approximately 1,029,542 jobs and $116 billion in sales. In the same year, recreational fishing activities supported over 327,000 jobs and recreational fishing trips and equipment sales totaled $50 billion.
In New Jersey alone commercial and recreational fishing supports almost 50,000 jobs.
During the hearing, witnesses from the fishing industry will speak to the need to act quickly on these reforms.
The Natural Resources Committee will also hear testimony from expert witnesses on the Coastal Jobs Creation Act of 2011 which creates a Coastal Jobs Creation Grant program that will ensure funds go to the programs and projects that help fishermen, the fishing industry and coastal community businesses. The recreational and commercial fishing industries will benefit from investments in revitalizing our working waterfronts, improving the science we use to manage fisheries, removing and cleaning up marine debris, funding restoration projects that protect marine resources and developing new technologies.
"Whether it is the local charter boat captain, the commercial fishing cooperative, the dedicated angler or the local business owner the most immediate concern of fishermen is jobs. The Coastal Jobs act addresses that need and I urge the committee quickly move forward with both of my bills."