A bill is currently making its way through Congress that could save a world of hassle and possible expense for smaller boat fishermen.
The bill creates an exemption to a regulation that would require an EPA permit for vessels less than 79 feet long for such discharge as bilge water and other common discharges.
Seafood.com reports that the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on the bill March 4. At that time, Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo, R-N.J., a senior member of the committee, applauded inclusion of his amendment to place a permanent moratorium from EPA, state regulations and fines governing incidental discharges on commercial fishing and charter fishing vessels regardless of size, and all other commercial vessels less than 79 feet.
“Starting this December, commercial fishermen, charter and tour boat operators, and owners of other commercial vessels less than 79 feet will have to apply for and receive individual permits from the EPA to discharge from their vessels such things as deck wash, bilge water and the condensation from air conditioning units. Vessels that operate without these permits could be subject to citizen lawsuits and daily fines that exceed $32,000 per violation,” said LoBiondo.
Central to the LoBiondo addition to H.R. 4005 would be the sheltering of fishing and other small commercial vessels from citizen lawsuits. These suits, while ostensibly brought to protect water quality, would more realistically be used as another weapon by anti-fishing activists in their ongoing assault on commercial fishermen.
In his testimony to the subcommittee, James Roussos, vice resident of Boat Operations, LaMonica Fine Food LLC in Milleville, N.J., said, “Please understand that those of us in the business of harvesting food for the benefit of this nation do so in a hostile environment. We are under constant scrutiny by environmentalists who petition or sue the federal government on a regular basis to increase environmental protection and restrict fishing activities. … Environmental regulation by litigation is out of control and could potentially cripple our industry.”
He added “(This regulation), if inflicted upon the fishing industry, will only add more paperwork to the bureaucracy, further demoralize an important industry’s workforce and cause economic hardship for little if any environmental benefit.”
Sen. Mark Begich is ushering a similar bill through the Senate.
Cristy Fry has fished out of Homer and King Cove since 1978. She can be reached at email@example.com.