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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Fishery, Aquaculture, and Marine Mammal Issues in the 112th Congress

Eugene H. Buck
Specialist in Natural Resources Policy

Harold F. Upton
Analyst in Natural Resources Policy

Fish and marine mammals are important resources in open ocean and nearshore coastal areas; many federal laws and regulations guide their management as well as the management of their habitat. Aquaculture or fish farming enterprises seek to supplement food traditionally provided by wild harvests.

Commercial and sport fishing are jointly managed by the federal government and individual states. States generally have jurisdiction within 3 miles of the coast. Beyond state jurisdiction and out to 200 miles in the federal exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the federal government (National Marine Fisheries Service, NMFS) manages fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSFCMA) through eight regional fishery management councils. Beyond 200 miles, the United States participates in international agreements relating to specific areas or species. The 112th Congress has enacted provisions to direct certain management measures for U.S. tuna fishing under the authority of the Commission for the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean (P.L. 112-55); to authorize the Corps of Engineers to take emergency measures to exclude Asian carp from the Great Lakes (P.L. 112-74); to create a Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund to promote efforts to achieve long-term sustainability of the ecosystem, fish stocks, fish habitat, and the recreational, commercial, and charter fishing industry in the Gulf of Mexico (P.L. 112-141); and to extend the authority to make expenditures from the Highway Trust Fund and other trust funds, including various programs under the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, through FY2014 (also in P.L. 112-141).

Aquaculture—the farming of fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals and plants in a controlled environment—is expanding rapidly abroad, yet with little growth in the United States. In the United States, important species cultured include catfish, salmon, shellfish, and trout. The 112th Congress has enacted provisions to direct the National Aquatic Animal Health Task Force to establish an infectious salmon anemia research program (P.L. 112-55) and to authorize the Corps of Engineers to transfer funds to the Fish and Wildlife Service for National Fish Hatcheries in FY2012 to mitigate for fisheries lost due to Corps of Engineers projects (P.L. 112-74).

Marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). With few exceptions, the MMPA prohibits harm or harassment (“take”) of marine mammals, unless permits are obtained. It also addresses specific situations of concern, such as dolphin mortality associated with the eastern tropical Pacific tuna fishery. Other than annual appropriations, no marine mammal legislation has been enacted by the 112th Congress.

The level of appropriations for fisheries, aquaculture/hatchery, and marine mammal programs administered by the NMFS and the Fish and Wildlife Service is a recurring issue during the 112th Congress due to pressures to reduce federal spending.

Date of Report: December 18, 2012
Number of Pages: 37
Order Number: R41613
Price: $29.95

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