Biden signs Fisheries Advisory Committee Act into law
U.S. President Joe Biden has signed a bill into law that establishes an industry-led panel to help federal officials oversee grant awards for fisheries.
The American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and was signed by Biden on Thursday, 12 May, 2022. The law will create the American Fisheries Advisory Committee, a 22-member panel representing six regions across the country. Regional members will be selected from the seafood processing, commercial, and recreational sectors, and from experts in regional fishery science. At-large members will include a representative of the foodservice sector, someone from both the commercial and recreational fishing industries, and a NOAA Fisheries representative with a background in research.
The federal government will select the members, according to the law. Once created, the committee will meet twice annually to determine industry needs, develop grant solicitation materials, review applications, and notify NOAA of the applications that merit grant funding. While initial appointees will be staggered, eventually all committee members will be appointed to three-year terms.
Sullivan filed the bill last year, noting that since 1972, when the original advisory committee was dissolved, industry representatives have not had a say in how the federal government awards marketing, research, and development funds for fisheries. Those grant funds, which were authorized by the Saltonstall-Kennedy Act of 1954, come from duties paid on seafood imports.
“For too long, these Alaskans have not had a voice in directing the millions of federal grant dollars toward the priorities and needs of the fishing industry. No longer,” Sullivan said in a 29 April statement, a couple days after the House passed the bill. “Once my American Fisheries Advisory Committee Act is signed into law, our fishermen will again have a seat at the table to offer appropriate input and oversight of the Saltonstall-Kennedy grant process, identify opportunities for improvement and growth, and maintain Alaska’s status as the superpower of seafood.”
The bill had broad bipartisan support, with cosponsors including U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia). It passed the Senate on 10 March, 2022, by unanimous consent and cleared the House by a 404-11 vote on 26 April.
Industry officials praised the bill as a way for the industry to reclaim a voice in how grant funds should be allocated. Last year, NOAA Fisheries awarded USD 11 million (EUR 10.6 million) in grants in 2021 to 43 recipients.
“I believe that it has the potential to become one of the most-powerful economic development tools for the U.S. seafood Industry since the 200-mile limit,” National Seafood Marketing Coalition Director Bruce Schactler said in a statement.
Photo courtesy of the White House