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

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Publication Date: May 2006

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

Series: IB10139

Topic: Environment (Ocean and ocean resources)


Fish and marine mammals are important resources in open ocean and nearshore coastal areas. Many laws and regulations guide the management of these resources by federal agencies.

Bills to reauthorize and amend major legislation — the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) — have been introduced in the 109th Congress; the authorization of appropriations for both laws expired at the end of FY1999. Bills offering extensive amendments to the MSFCMA include H.R. 1431, H.R. 4940, H.R. 5018, H.R. 5051, S. 1224, and S. 2012. H.R. 2130, H.R. 4075, and S. 1224 propose extensive amendments to the MMPA. Recommendations by the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy will likely play a role in actions considered during the 109th Congress.

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 thus far by the 109th Congress extends protection to family fishermen under Chapter 12 of bankruptcy law (§1007 of P.L. 109-8), revises visa requirements to allow certain seasonal immigrant seafood processing workers to enter the United States (§402 of P.L. 109-13), reaffirms state authority to regulate certain fishing activities to distinguish between state and out-of-state residents (§6036 of P.L. 109-13), allows hydropower licensees to propose alternatives to fishways as long as the alternatives would not diminish fish passage (§241 of P.L. 109-58), and comprehensively amends and reauthorizes the Sport Fish Restoration Program to permanently appropriate boat safety funding and modify distribution of funds (Title X of P.L. 109-59).

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 extends protection to family fishermen (including aquaculture operations) under Chapter 12 of bankruptcy law (§1007 of P.L. 109-8).

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, which is primarily associated with the eastern tropical Pacific tuna fishery. No legislation has yet been enacted by the 109th Congress relating to marine mammals.