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Fishery, Aquaculture, and Marine Mammal Legislation in the 108th Congress

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Publication Date: January 2005

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

Series: IB10109

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Abstract:

Fish and marine mammals are important resources in open ocean and near shore coastal areas. Commercial and sport fishing are jointly managed by the federal government and individual states. Many laws and regulations guide the management of these resources by federal agencies.

Reauthorization of major legislation — the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) — was on the agenda of the 108th Congress, since the authorization of appropriations for both laws expired at the end of FY1999.

In the 108th Congress, P.L. 108-7 created a West Coast Groundfish Fishing Capacity Reduction Program, directed NOAA Fisheries to establish a Regional Office for the Pacific Area, required increased legal and fiscal accountability for Pacific salmon recovery, and provided $100 million in fishery disaster funding. P.L. 108-11 directed the Secretary of Agriculture to promulgate regulations allowing wild seafood to be certified or labeled as organic. P.L. 108-136 reauthorized the Sikes Act through FY2008 and authorized certain vessels for use as artificial reefs. P.L. 108-199 rationalized certain Alaska crab fisheries and instituted processor quotas. P.L. 108-219 reauthorized the Yukon River Salmon Act through FY2008. P.L. 108-287 made Department of Defense Buy American requirements permanently inapplicable to the procurement of fish, shellfish, and seafood. P.L. 108-293 increased consultation on fishery law enforcement. H.R. 4706, S. 482, and S. 2066 were introduced to reauthorize and comprehensively amend the MSFCMA.

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. In the 108th Congress, P.L. 108-293 authorized interim assistance to aquaculture operators awaiting the recovery of damages for oil spill injuries.

Marine mammals are protected under the MMPA, which authorizes restricted use (“take”) of marine mammals. It addresses specific situations of concern, such as dolphin mortality, which is primarily associated with the eastern tropical Pacific tuna fishery. In the 108th Congress, P.L. 108-7 directed the Department of Commerce to evaluate and document foreign compliance with the International Dolphin Conservation Program. P.L. 108-108 modified the MMPA to permit the importation of polar bears harvested prior to the enactment of final regulations. P.L. 108-136 modified the MMPA’s definition of harassment and provisions relating to taking marine mammals as they relate to military readiness activities and federal scientific research. P.L. 108-293 required studies of routing options to reduce vessel strikes on North Atlantic right whales. H.R. 2693 and H.R. 3316 were the only bills introduced to reauthorize and comprehensively amend the MMPA; H.R. 2693 was reported by the House Committee on Resources on April 20, 2004.