U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) the top Republican on the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, today introduced the Offshore Fairness Act, which would extend the offshore jurisdiction for states from Louisiana to Virginia from three miles to ten miles. Currently Texas and the East Coast of Florida have jurisdiction for three marine leagues, the equivalent of 10.36 miles, off their coasts. Vitter's bill would give the same rights and privileges to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, all of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is introducing the companion bill in the House today.
"My bill is a simple matter of fairness for coastal states like Louisiana," Vitter said. "The bill doesn't only grant states' rights to energy resources with additional property rights; it also gives them exclusive fishery management authority over reef fish within the new boundary. And given the federal government's abysmal management of the red snapper fishery, my bill extends jurisdiction of that resource -- up to 200 miles off the states' coast. Allowing these coastal states to regulate their own natural and commercial offshore resources in the extended jurisdiction will help alleviate financial troubles and allow a much more local approach."
The Offshore Fairness Act allows states to have exclusive fishery management over the red snapper fish, the lutjuanus campechanus, within a jurisdiction of 200 miles out from their coastline. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is tasked with conducting scientifically based fishery stock assessments, but the current stock assessment has been criticized as flawed and based on incomplete science. Vitter's bill would put the states in charge of red snapper management until each state's governor certifies that NOAA's stock assessments are complete and based on sound science.