Seafood Harvesters Letter on Coast Guard Reauthorization

November 14, 2018 - Published in News Releases and Advocacy

November 14, 2018

Dear Chairman Thune, Chairman Barrasso, Ranking Member Nelson, and Ranking Member Carper,

We understand that the Senate will soon consider the Coast Guard Reauthorization bill, which contains provisions vital to the commercial fishing industry. We urge the Senate to pass this bill.

We strongly support the bill’s permanent exemption for small vessels and fishing vessels from incidental discharge regulations and believe it is a common-sense solution to the regulatory uncertainty we have faced in past years. A permanent exemption for these vessels will enable fishermen around the country to focus on providing the country with sustainable, wild caught seafood rather than applying for permits for water that runs off boat decks or navigating burdensome red tape. This permanent exemption provides the much-needed regulatory assurance that we will not have to worry about non-compliance every few years when temporary exemptions expire.

We are also very supportive of the changes to vessel classification for newly built vessels and the Coast Guard’s alternative safety compliance program for existing vessels. By increasing the length of newly built vessels to be built to class standards but not maintained to such standards, the Senate has provided a pathway for vessel owners to replace old and outdated vessels with new, safer, and more modern vessels. Additionally, vessel owners will effectively avoid incurring additional costs associated with maintaining boats to class standards that provide few, if any, additional safety benefits. We are also very pleased to see language in this bill that allows for alternative safety compliance programs to be developed in specific regions for specific fisheries. Having the ability to tailor these programs to specific fisheries will help improve safety in these fisheries while avoiding unnecessary blanket rules and regulations. Though we supported language that directs the USCG to work together with the fishing industry when the alternative compliance program is being developed, we believe the current elements in the Senate bill go a long way to developing a useful vessel safety program for the existing U.S. commercial fishing fleet.

We applaud the strong bipartisan work that has gone into crafting this bill. The result of this hard work is a bill which retains strong environmental protections safeguarding our nation’s waters while simultaneously providing industry relief from burdensome and unnecessary regulations.

Ensuring that our nation’s waters and aquatic habitats, both fresh and marine, remain healthy and productive is critical for every single fishing business around the country – our businesses depend on it. We appreciate the work to remain committed to strong environmental protections – addressing concerns about invasive species, minimizing spillage and leaks into our waters, and tackling pollutants in our waters – while simultaneously providing regulatory relief for fishing businesses.

We are deeply grateful to all of the Senators who have crafted a commonsense Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill that protects our environment and our businesses. We hope to see it pass in short time. Thousands of seafood harvesters across the country will breathe a sigh of relief when this bill is signed into law.

 

Sincerely,

Christopher Brown, President

Seafood Harvesters of America

 

cc:

Senate Commerce Majority Members

Senate Commerce Minority Members

Senate Environment and Public Works Majority Members

Senate Environment and Public Works Minority Members