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October 13, 2009

CCA: Conservationists encouraged by fisheries amendments

Angler concerns over catch shares, aquaculture gaining traction
By CCA

The pace and breadth of federal oceans and fisheries policies have caused apprehension in the angling community in recent months, but a pair of amendments to a Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill filed by Sen. David Vitter (R-La) this week signals that some elected officials are concerned as well. The amendments, proposed as part of spending bill HR 2847, would force the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration to do new analyses of offshore fish farming and catch-share programs in federal fisheries.

"Coastal states are better stewards of fishery resources than the National Marine Fisheries Service.  If catch shares are to be applied to mixed fisheries off Louisiana, then Louisianans should be able to protect our access to public fishery resources by having some level of input - or at least an idea of how NMFS plans on resolving fishery allocation disputes and what forms of management and data collection will be utilized," Sen. Vitter said. "In regards to aquaculture practices, I find it unacceptable that the Obama administration is looking at issuing permits for offshore aquaculture in the Gulf of Mexico without any idea as to the form of regulation they intend to use to prevent adverse environmental impacts and the escape of fin-fish species.  The protection and development of Louisiana's marine resources are something I take very seriously, and I'm very concerned about where the administration is going to be landing on these issues."

One of the amendments would block any offshore aquaculture permits until the Department of Commerce completes a new assessment of how aquaculture will be regulated to prevent environmental damage, while the other calls for a report on how catch share programs propose to collect data on commercial and recreational fishers and resolve allocation disparities between the two sectors.

 "CCA was honored to host Sen. Vitter at meetings in Texas and Louisiana recently to discuss many issues that are important to recreational anglers and we are encouraged by these amendments," said Patrick Murray, CCA executive vice president. "Anglers have felt for some time that the new Administration is not overly concerned about the impacts some of its proposed programs and policies could have on the recreational angling community. Sen. Vitter understands how important these issues are to us and we look forward to working with him on marine issues in the future."