South Carolina congressman files fishery management bill tied to climate change

A South Carolina congressman filed a bill on Tuesday, 15 October, that calls on the government to determine what actions fishery managers are taking to address climate change and provide recommendations for what else can be done to address it.

The bill, titled the Climate-Ready Fisheries Act of 2019, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-South Carolina) would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to identify fishery managers’ actions, provide recommendations to managers, and address gaps in industrial knowledge or funding.

“Lowcountry fishermen are some of the hardest-working people in South Carolina, and climate change has put their way of life under direct attack. The Climate-Ready Fisheries Act gives our fishermen the tools they need to continue fishing sustainably for generations to come,” Cunningham said in a statement. “Ultimately, well-managed fisheries are resilient fisheries. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan legislation to help us learn what is working, what is not, and how we can be the best possible stewards of our natural resources.”

Environmental advocacy groups praised the bill's author for understanding the need to address climate change.

“The United States has some of the strongest fishery management in the world, but we must be forward looking and prepare for the climate impacts already here and those that are coming,” said Eric Schwaab, the Environmental Defense Fund’s senior vice president for oceans. “It’s critically important that we determine how the regional fishery management councils are adapting to these impacts and how we can help them innovate further.”

Robert Vandermark, executive director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network, noted in a statement that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent report indicates climate change is already happening as the oceans are becoming warmer and more acidic

“Having a clear and up-to-date picture of existing government efforts to address climate change's impacts on marine fisheries is a necessary step in understanding where future research and management efforts must be focused,” he said.

The bill, H.R. 4679, has been assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee. Bill co-sponsor U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-California) serves as that committee’s Water, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee chairman.

It already has bipartisan support.

“Healthy waterways are critical to our environment and economy – supporting the businesses in our communities that rely on fishing and tourism to thrive,” U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (R-Florida), one of two GOP co-sponsors, along with fellow Florida U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, said in a statement. “This bill will go a long way to protect our local fisheries and promote healthier ecosystems for generations to come.”  

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 


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