Legislation incorporated into the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 now before Congress has gained substantial support from commercial fisheries groups from Florida to the Pacific Northwest.
They are rallying around the Commercial Vessel Discharges Reform Act of 2013, introduced by Rep, Frank LoBiondo, R-NJ, which was incorporated into the legislation before the House in mid-February. The coalition said that without this legislation they would be exposed to yet another layer of permitting and regulation, a layer they say is unwarranted and would impose an unnecessary bureaucratic burden on an already overburdened fleet.
LoBiondo’s legislation would exempt commercial fishing vessels as defined in Section 2101 of Title 46 from requirements of the Clean Water Act, which as the result of a lawsuit in 2006 would otherwise apply to them. Such an exemption has already been allowed for recreational vessels, regardless of their size, the coalition said.
Without the discharge reform legislation, routine and environmentally benign activities such as deck washing could be prohibited, and fines potentially reaching $25,000 a day could be levied for non-compliance, the group said in a statement.
What the legislation does, they said, is extend a regulatory exemption originally granted by the Environmental Protection Agency 30 years ago. A 2010 report ordered by Congress and published by the EPA confirms that continuing this exemption will not contribute to pollution of inshore or coastal waters, they said.
Among the supporters of the legislation are the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, At-sea Processors Association, Columbia River Crab Fishermen’s Association, Coos Bay Trawlers, Fishing Vessel Owners Association, Freezer Longline Coalition, Groundfish Forum, Midwater Trawlers Cooperative, Monkfish Defense Fund, National Fisheries Institute, Oregon Trawl Commission, Pacific Seafood Processors Association, Pacific Whiting Conservation Cooperative, United Catcher Boats, Washington Dungeness Crab Fishermen’s Association, Washington Trollers Association, West Coast Seafood Processors Association and the Western Fishboat Owners Association.