Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. Thursday spoke in support of two bills he authored during a House Natural Resources Committee hearing. During the hearing, Pallone questioned witness Bob Zales, president of the National Association of Charter Boat Captains about the need for flexibility and to have adequate science in order to implement annual catch limits. Also, he questioned Eric Schwab, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration on whether or not they are using the improved science which Pallone's bill requires fisheries managers to use or still relying on faulty data collection. Schwab replied to Pallone's questioning that NOAA was in fact using the Marine Recreational Fishing Statistical Survey, deemed insufficient by the National Research Council.
Rep. Doc Hastings, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs committed to moving forward with the legislation in 2012. Below are excerpts of Pallone's full statement.
"Whether it is the local charter boat captain, the commercial fishing cooperative, the dedicated angler or the local business owner, they know the importance that fishing has for our economy.
"I am glad to have the opportunity for the committee to discuss my bills: H.R. 594, the Coastal Jobs Creation Act and H.R. 3061, the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act. Both of these bills will help fishermen get back on the water and spur job creation and economic activity in our communities.
"When the Magnuson Stevens Reauthorization Act of 2006 became law fishermen were told that rebuilding stocks on a 10-year timeline, although painful in the short-term, would provide them with higher quotas and more fish to catch. At the time, I made the argument that we could rebuild fisheries without adhering to a completely arbitrary deadline that would hurt a fisherman's ability to put bread on the table.
"My bill, the Flexibility and Access in Rebuilding American Fisheries Act of 2011, increases transparency in the management process by requiring a published report, for all the public to see and analyze, that explains exactly what information is being used and if the unavailability of information is being used to lower fishing quotas. My bill will further allow the Secretary of Commerce to step in and override overly burdensome restrictions in a fishery that has been rebuilt, not subject to overfishing or approaching overfishing and when the science simply cannot support such restrictions in light of the social and economic impacts.
"New restrictions established in the 2006 Reauthorization of the Magnuson Act that were intended to be put in place with improved science and data programs are being implemented while the new data collection programs designed to get the better science and data are still just getting off the ground.
"My bill requires fisheries managers to get going on using the improved data collection method. It also requires the National Research Council to issue a report on improvements that need to be made with recreational fishing data collection and surveying so we can understand what is actually happening with fishing in any given year and ensure that we aren't needlessly closing healthy fisheries.
"I am also glad to have the opportunity to discuss my bill, the Coastal Jobs Creation Act. It creates a coastal jobs grant program that will ensure funds go to the programs and projects that help fishermen, the fishing industry and coastal community businesses. The bill will also make certain that the federal government works with fishermen to ensure they are a part of the process and receive the support they deserve during these hard economic times. The bill invests 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.
"We can do all this while using the work of fishermen, whether by deploying them as observers for monitoring, assisting in cooperative research or providing their idle fishing vessels for rebuilding working waterfronts or coral reefs.
"I would just like to point out again that recreational and commercial fishing is something the United States can depend on. The fishermen I know are some of the most dedicated conservationists you find out there. Their livelihoods depend on it. 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. These numbers should not be taken lightly and I ask that after the committee considers the testimony from today that H.R. 594 and H.R. 3061 be scheduled for a vote so we can support these jobs."