The following is Senator Bill Nelson's floor statement on the Fishery Conservation Transition Act, filed on July 15, 2010

Posted on July 15, 2010 by Mr. Nelson of Florida

S. 3594. A bill to amend the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to mitigate the economic impact of the transition to sustainable fisheries on fishing communities, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, I would like to speak about fishing, a very important special pastime and industry for the Nation. Fishing in Florida is a way of life for many. The small bait and tackle shops, the hotels, the restaurants, the charter boat captains, and the parents who want to see their children marvel when they pull a fish out of the ocean for the first time rely on being able to access the water. In fact, just last week, a Washington Post article traced the path of fish caught in the Florida Keys and off of Florida's East Coast to a Whole Foods market here in the DC area. And sadly, the Deepwater Horizon has shown us how much healthy, high-quality seafood comes out of the Gulf of Mexico every year.
 
In 2007, the Congress reauthorized the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The Magnuson Act has certainly done some good things to ensure the long-term viability of our Nation's fishery resources. But some of the provisions of the law have had major unintended consequences in Florida.
 
I have spoken before about the need for robust science on the status of our oceans and our fishery stocks. In fact, most recently, I worked with Gulf Coast Senators to get funding in the Supplemental Appropriations bill for fisheries science in the Gulf of Mexico. But despite the potential influx of dollars, fisheries data for the Southeast in particular, is still sparse. This lack of data has led to a crisis in confidence amongst many in the fishing community. Here is why.
 
The 2007 Magnuson-Stevens Reauthorization contained a 2010 deadline to end overfishing. But the justification for that deadline rested on two assumptions. First, that there would be recent and accurate stock assessments. Second, that there would be improved catch data. I think the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is doing the best they can with available resources to gather this data. However, for years good data from recreational anglers has been a challenge but because of the changes to Magnuson-Stevens, regulations are coming out faster than the data used to support them.
 
Having that hard and fast 2010 deadline created a situation where the resource managers are left without options. This has led to closures of large geographic areas to all fishing with no end on the horizon. These closures have devastated small businesses that rely on fishing and left many frustrated that they cannot access the same waters that they always could.
 
Being a native Floridian, I know that many people develop a love for the ocean and a desire to protect it after they truly experience it by swimming, fishing off their boat, or listening to the waves. This access is a necessary component of conservation because the public gains a sense of ownership and this leads to a sense of responsibility.
 
That is why I am filing the Fishery Conservation Transition Act today. The bill will enable individuals, businesses, and communities to make a smooth transition while the science catches up by creating a phase-in period for Federal fishing regulations and requiring enhanced data collection in the interim. It also allows for economic assistance for those who are negatively impacted by management measures.
 
Others have proposed different solutions to this problem, but I believe that my bill is a targeted solution that gives resource managers options to allow access to the water in a way that will also achieve conservation goals.
 
There are provisions in the bill that require fishery managers to use the transition time wisely and research creative solutions to complex management issues, like how to manage multispecies fisheries in a way that protects the vulnerable stocks but still allows for access. This bill is also about jobs. Small businesses that rely on the fishing industry can ride out these difficult economic times without sacrificing the resource their businesses rely on.
 
I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will support this effort to provide a smooth transition to sustainable fisheries, healthy economic prospects for small businesses, access to the oceans and natural resources, and robust science.
 
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.
 
There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:
 
S. 3594
 
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
 
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
 
This Act may be cited as the ``Fishery Conservation Transition Act''.
 
SEC. 2. TRANSITION TO SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES.
 
(a) IN GENERAL.--Within 180 days after the close of fishing year 2010 (within the meaning given that term in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1802 et seq.), the Secretary of Commerce shall determine, with respect to each fishery for which a fishery management plan that meets the requirements of section 303(a)(15) of that Act (16 U.S.C. 1853(a)(15)) is in effect that contains a complete prohibition on the retention of stocks subject to overfishing within the fishery for the entire fishing season, whether the prohibition is sufficient to prevent or end overfishing for the stocks, or stocks undergoing overfishing, to which it applies.
 
(b) REMEDIAL ACTION.--If the Secretary determines that the prohibition contained in such a fishery management plan is not sufficient to prevent or end overfishing for the stocks to which it applies, the Secretary may authorize retention of fish that are not undergoing overfishing within that fishery, notwithstanding that discard mortality of stocks for which retention is prohibited may be inconsistent with provisions on ending or preventing overfishing, if, within 90 days after a determination by the Secretary under subsection (a), the Regional Fishery Management Council with jurisdiction over the fishery implements--
 
(1) measures to minimize bycatch and bycatch mortality to the extent practicable;
 
(2) an enhanced data collection requirement, such as an electronic logbook data collection system, for recreational, for hire, and commercial fishers; and
 
(3) a program of on-board observers for charter, for-hire, and commercial fishers that will monitor and collect data on bycatch and bycatch mortality in multispecies fisheries with prohibitions on retention on one or more species in the fisheries; and
 
(4) in coordination with the Secretary, other measures to ensure accountability of the fishery, including those that will substantially contribute to addressing data gaps in stock assessments.
 
(c) ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS.--The Secretary shall take such action as may be necessary to ensure that, with respect to any stock subject to overfishing in a fishery to which a determination under subsection (b) applies--
 
(1) a monitoring and research program to monitor the recovery of the affected stocks of fish is implemented for the fishery within 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act;
 
(2) a stock assessment for the overfished species within the affected stocks of fish is initiated, taking into account relevant life history of the stock, within 6 months after the date on which the Secretary makes such a determination; and
 
(3) the Regional Fishery Management Council with jurisdiction over the affected fishery submits a report to Congress and the Secretary detailing a long-term plan for reducing discard mortality of the affected stocks of fish to which a determination under subsection (a) applies within 2 years after the date of enactment of this Act.
 
(d) FURTHER ACTION REQUIRED.--If the Secretary determines that--
 
(1) the Regional Fishery Management Council with jurisdiction over a fishery has complied with the requirements of paragraphs (b) and (c), and
 
[Page: S5968]  GPO's PDF
 
(2) the fishery management plan's prohibition on the retention of stocks subject to overfishing continues to be insufficient to prevent or end over-fishing for those stocks,
 
the Secretary shall take such action as may be necessary to end overfishing for the stocks to which the prohibition applies before the end of fishery year 2015.
 
SEC. 3. ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE PROGRAM.
 
(a) IN GENERAL.--Section 208 of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act of 2006 (16 U.S.C. 1891b) is amended--
 
(1) by striking ``and'' after the semicolon in subsection (b)(6);
 
(2) by striking ``materia.'' in subsection (b)(7) and inserting ``materia; and'';
 
(3) by adding at the end of subsection (b) the following:
 
``(8) the economic assistance program under subsection (f).'';
 
(4) by striking ``and'' after the semicolon in subsection (c)(2)(A);
 
(5) by striking ``section.'' in subsection (c) (2)(B) and inserting ``section; and'';
 
(6) by adding at the end of subsection (c)(2) the following.:
 
``(C) fees collected under permit programs for a fishery significantly affected by a prohibition on the retention of stocks to end or prevent overfishing.''; and
 
(7) by adding at the end thereof the following:
 
``(f) ECONOMIC ASSISTANCE PROGRAM.--
 
`` (1) IN GENERAL.--The Secretary shall establish an economic assistance program to assist recreational and commercial fishery participants, fishing industries, and fishing communities significantly affected by a prohibition on the retention of stocks to end or prevent overfishing or rebuild overfished stocks and use amounts in the Fund to provide such assistance.
 
``(2) CRITERIA FOR ASSISTANCE.--In the administration of the program, the Secretary shall develop criteria for prioritizing economic assistance requests, including consideration of the conservation and management history of the fishery, the sustainability of conservation and management approaches, the magnitude of the economic impact of the retention prohibition, and community and social impacts.
 
``(3) APPLICATION PROCESS.--The Secretary shall develop an application process to determine eligibility for economic assistance under the program and shall consult with States whose recreational and commercial fishery participants, fishing industries, or fishing communities have been affected by the prohibition. Any person or community seeking assistance under the program shall submit an application at such time, in such manner, and containing such information and assurances as the Secretary may require.
 
``(4) STATE MATCHING FUNDS.--The Federal share of assistance provided under the program to recreational and commercial fishery participants, fishing industries, or fishing communities may not exceed 75 percent. Before granting assistance under the program, the Secretary shall consult with the State in which the recipient is located and request that the State provide matching funds. The Secretary may waive, in whole or in part, the matching requirement under this paragraph.''.
 
SEC. 4. AUTHORITY TO ACT.
 
(a) CLARIFICATION OF EMERGENCY AUTHORITY.--Section 305(c) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1855(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following:
 
``(4) For purposes of this section, an emergency is a situation that results from recent, unforeseen, or recently discovered circumstances that present serious conservation or management problems in the fishery, including ecological, economic, social, or public health interests. An emergency may include increasing or decreasing a catch limit, or modifying a time or area closure or retention prohibition in response to new science or stock assessment information, but only if such action is needed to address serious conservation or management problems in the fishery.''.
 
SEC. 5. FISHERY STUDIES AND REPORTS.
 
(a) Status of Fishery Report.--Section 304(e) of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1854(e)) is amended--
 
(1) by inserting ``(A)'' before ``The Secretary'';
 
(2) by redesignating subparagraphs (A) and (B) as clauses (i) and (ii); and
 
(3) by adding at the end the following:
 
``(B) In the review, the Secretary shall consider--
 
``(i) a stock assessment conducted pursuant to subsection (c);
 
``(ii) an analysis of the local, regional, and national social and economic impacts on fishing communities and industries directly and indirectly related to the fishery; and
 
``(iii) fishery management measures to enhance the sustainability of stocks of fish that are overfished, and an evaluation of alternative management approaches that may be implemented to enhance such sustainability.
 
``(C) Stock assessment updates for each stock of fish that is overfished or undergoing overfishing shall be conducted at 2 year intervals, and a full stock assessment pursuant to subsection (c) shall be conducted no less frequently than once every 5 years.
 
``(D) The Secretary shall include a summary of reviews conducted under subparagraph (A) in the report required by paragraph (1) of this subsection. To the extent possible, the Secretary shall include in the report recommendations for actions that could be taken to encourage the sustainable management of stocks of fish listed in the Fish Stocks Sustainability Index.''.
 
(b) ASSESSMENT OF CURRENT MANAGEMENT MEASURES.--
 
(1) IN GENERAL.--The Secretary of Commerce shall conduct a study, in cooperation with the National Academy of Sciences, to determine if current fishery management measures for stocks in a multi-species fishery yield the most productive use of marine resources while effectively conserving sustainable populations and a healthy marine ecosystem. The study shall include--
 
(A) the identification of the statutory and regulatory impediments to achieving the maximum sustainable yield from the entire fishery;
 
(B) the identification of fishery independent environmental stressors on the fishery;
 
(C) the economic value derived from the yield in the fishery; and
 
(D) alternative fishery management measures and technologies which would result in increased economic and harvest yields consistent with sound conservation.
 
(2) REPORT.--Within 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall transmit a report to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources containing the Secretary's findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
 
SEC. 6. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
 
There are authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of Commerce such sums as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act and the amendments made by this Act.