US Senate Republicans demand more clarity on NOAA fishery disaster determinations

A photo of U.S. Sen. Rick Scott.

Several U.S. senators want to be able to track fishery disaster determinations the same way consumers track packages throughout their shipping process.

The Republican lawmakers are demanding more transparency from NOAA Fisheries on how the agency makes determinations of fishery disasters a designation that makes communities and industries eligible for federal financial relief.

In a 21 December 2023 joint letter to NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Janet Coit, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-Florida), U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi), and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) asked the agency to create an online tracking system that would allow policymakers and other stakeholders to follow along as disaster-assistance requests make their way through NOAA’s decision-making process.

“We believe it is important for stakeholders to understand and track the step-by-step process for a fishery disaster request,” the senators wrote in the joint letter. “This tracking would allow stakeholders to follow the process from submission of data to decisions made by NOAA and the Office of Management and Budget. Stakeholders would be able to follow the status of their request as each division of NOAA examines the data, just like consumers track packages through the shipping process from a vendor to delivery.”

In 2022, Congress passed the Fishery Resource Disasters Improvement (FREDI) Act, which revised how NOAA makes fishery disaster determinations. However, the Republican senators argue that the agency has yet to fully implement the revised law and provide meaningful transparency.

“This law, if implemented properly, has the potential to improve the fishery disaster assistance process at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service by creating deadlines for decisions and data submission, restoring stakeholder confidence and faith in the fishery disaster assistance process,” the senators said.

In lieu of an online tracker, the senators asked Coit to provide substantive replies to any applicants or stakeholders requesting updates on the status of their request.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock/lev radin


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