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Fishery, Aquaculture, and Marine Mammal Legislation in the 109th Congress

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Publication Date: January 2007

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL33459

Topic: Agriculture, forestry and fishing (Fish industry)


Fish and marine mammals are important resources in open ocean and nearshore coastal areas; many federal laws and regulations guide their management. Bills to reauthorize and amend major legislation -- the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) -- were acted upon by the 109th Congress; the authorization of appropriations for both laws expired at the end of FY1999. P.L. 109-479 reauthorized and extensively amended the MSFCMA; a bill extensively amending the MMPA was passed by the House (H.R. 4075).

Commercial and sport fishing are jointly managed by the federal government and individual states. States have jurisdiction generally within 3 miles of the coast. Beyond state jurisdiction and out to 200 miles, the federal government manages fisheries under the MSFCMA through eight regional fishery management councils. Beyond 200 miles, the United States participates in international agreements relating to specific areas or species.

Legislation related to commercial and sport fisheries enacted by the 109th Congress included measures to protect fishermen under bankruptcy law (§1007 of P.L. 109-8), revise visa requirements to allow seasonal seafood processing workers to enter the United States (§402 of P.L. 109-13 and §1074 of P.L. 109-364), reaffirm state authority to regulate fishing to distinguish between state and out-of-state residents (§6036 of P.L. 109-13), allow hydropower licensees to propose alternatives to fishways as long as the alternatives would not diminish fish passage (§241 of P.L. 109-58), provide $112 million for Gulf Coast fishery recovery (P.L. 109-234), amend the Sport Fish Restoration Program to permanently appropriate boat safety funding and modify distribution of funds (Title X of P.L. 109-59), and implement the Great Lakes Fishery Resources Restoration Study (P.L. 109-326).

Aquaculture -- the farming of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals and plants in a controlled environment -- is expanding rapidly, both in the United States and abroad. In the United States, important species cultured include catfish, salmon, shellfish, and trout. Legislation related to aquaculture enacted by the 109th Congress protects aquaculture under bankruptcy law (§1007 of P.L. 109-8) and clarifies aquaculture grants for 2005 hurricane disaster relief (§3032 of P.L. 109-234).

Marine mammals are protected under the MMPA. With few exemptions, the MMPA prohibits harm or harassment ("take") of marine mammals, unless restrictive permits are obtained. It addresses specific situations of concern, such as dolphin mortality, primarily associated with the eastern tropical Pacific tuna fishery. No marine mammal legislation was enacted by the 109th Congress.

This report replaces CRS Issue Brief IB10139, Fishery, Aquaculture, and Marine Mammal Legislation in the 109th Congress, by Eugene H. Buck.