NMFS fisheries regulation potentially affected by Trump executive order

President Donald Trump’s executive order directing all federal agencies to repeal two existing regulations for each new one is affecting the ability of the National Marine Fisheries Service to regulate the U.S. fishing industry, according to industry groups and two Democratic U.S. representatives.

According to a letter sent to President Trump by House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva and Water, Power, and Oceans Subcommittee Ranking Member Jared Huffman, the executive order will prevent NMFS from opening or closing commercial and recreational fishing seasons in federal waters; making in-season adjustments to conservation and management measures; or implementing new or revised fishery management plans without first seeking a waiver from the Trump administration.

“All fisheries that take place in federal waters require regulatory action to open and close season, set catch limits, modify conservation and management measures, or adjust participation eligibility requirements,” the letter said. “In many cases, multiple regulations must be enacted each year for a single fishery and that is a good thing – American fishermen depend on active, science-based management to ensure that their individual operations and their industry are economically and environmentally sustainable.”

According to Grijalva and Huffman, NMFS has already had to delay the effective date of a rule necessary to facilitate transfers of Atlantic bluefin tuna quota between fishery participants, and the order may prevent the opening of the Alaska halibut and sablefish fisheries.

“If we now must eliminate two regulations every time a fishery is managed, there will be complete chaos,” Huffman said in a press release. “Our fisheries and coastal economies should not have to suffer these consequences.”

Trump’s executive order, Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs, directs agencies to repeal two existing regulations for every new regulation, and to do it in such a way that the total cost of regulations does not increase.

"This will be the biggest such act that our country has ever seen. There will be regulation. There will be control. But it will be normalized control where you can open your business and expand your business easily," Trump said at the 30 January signing of the order.

Several fishing organizations have also spoken up against the order, including the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, the Massachusetts Striped Bass Association, the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and the Association of Northwest Steelheaders.

“We are all striving for smarter, straightforward regulations but that needs to be done through a targeted and strategic process,” Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association Executive Director Ben Martens. “Having to arbitrarily negate two regulations in order to change management rules is not cost-effective nor is it simple. Rather than solve an issue, this order will hinder and complicate an already complex process for our nation’s fishermen. New regulations do not prohibit fishermen from doing their jobs; instead, they often put new science on the water and make it easier for fishermen to make a living. We should not be slowing this process further but instead finding faster ways to get science and streamlined regulations on the water. While the president’s new order seeks to simplify, in reality, it may unintentionally hinder progress on the water and for our fishing businesses.”


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