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Monday, February 11, 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 numerous international agreements.

Some of the fishery measures enacted by the 112
th Congress included bills with provisions to (1) authorize the Corps of Engineers to take emergency measures to exclude Asian carp from the Great Lakes (P.L. 112-74); (2) 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); (3) extend the authority to make expenditures from the Highway Trust Fund under the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, through FY2014 (also P.L. 112-141); (4) extend the authorization to engage foreign citizens in the U.S. distant water tuna fleet and give distant water tuna vessels the option of using Guam as their required port of call (P.L. 112-213); and (5) amend the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act, to define a severe marine debris event and direct that a determination for such an event be made for the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and for Hurricane Sandy (also P.L. 112-213).

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. Some of the aquaculture measures enacted by the 112
th Congress included bills with provisions to (1) direct the National Aquatic Animal Health Task Force to establish an infectious salmon anemia research program (P.L. 112-55); (2) 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); and (3) direct the Secretary of the Interior to convey the McKinney Lake National Fish Hatchery to the state of North Carolina (P.L. 112-237).

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 was enacted by the 112
th Congress.

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


Date of Report: January 22, 2013
Number of Pages: 37
Order Number: R41613
Price: $29.95

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