On July 11, H.R. 200,the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act passed the House of Representatives. The vote on the House floor was disappointing but close – as this partisan bill passed by a vote of 222-193. To see a breakdown of how Members voted, go here.
As we have told you before, this legislation represents a large threat to the future sustainability of our shared fisheries resources. There is nothing modern about HR 200. It would roll back some of the most effective management tools we have, such as science-based annual catch limits and rebuilding timelines. Our concerns with HR 200 are many and very real. For example, it favors short-term economic gains over long-term fisheries stability. Fisheries management decisions should not be based on quarterly profit statements, but rather sound science and what is best for the longevity of the resource. We all want to catch fish now and into the future.
So, last week the U.S. House missed an opportunity to ensure a vibrant future for our fisheries resources and all the diverse stakeholders that depend on sound management practices. Federal fishery law has a long a rich history of bringing both sides together to solve real problems. There is no shortage of issues that should be addressed. We could all be working on legislation that would strengthen our ability to ensure healthy marine environments, improve data collection methods, and protect critical forage species that are the keystone of the ecosystem. Instead, we are dealing with a bill that is doing a great job of dividing stakeholders, fishing communities and the country further with its short-sighted provisions rather than doing what will benefit all Americans.
The future of our fisheries now lies within the Senate. While there currently is no companion bill to H.R. 200 in the Senate, Senators will be under pressure to pass another fisheries bill, the Senate’s version of the Modern Fish Act (S. 1520) since some provisions of that bill are contained in the House bill, H.R. 200. H.R. 200’s proponents are trying to confuse the issue, and encourage S. 1520’s passage, by calling H.R. 200 the “Modern Fish Act,” too.
However, the bills are nothing alike. H.R. 200 has many more terrible provisions than S. 1520 and most of them are far worse. If S.1520 is passed, it leaves legislators in a position to reconcile the two bills and gives the public little chance to have input in that process. This is the real threat that H.R. 200 presents to our fisheries future.
The message from Fissues is simple. We all have a vested interest in supporting a framework of laws that benefit the resource first. If we take this approach, all the other issues will be addressed, and we will ensure a bright future for our children and grandchildren.
Stay tuned to Fissues for further guidance on this issue. We will need your support in the near future.