Trump administration considering National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish and Wildlife Services merger

Published on
June 29, 2018

The administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is looking to make changes to the U.S. government, and one of the recommendations it is considering would impact the seafood industry.

Earlier this month, the White House released a 128-page report, “Delivering Government Solutions in the 21st Century,” detailing steps it’s considering to streamline governmental functions. The report was written by the Office of Management and Budget after Trump issued an order to the agency in March 2017 to devise a plan to revise organizations within the executive branch. 

"This plan will serve as a cornerstone for a productive, bipartisan dialogue around making the Federal Government work for the 21st century," the administration said in a statement.

One of the recommendations in the report proposes to merge the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is part of the Commerce Department, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which falls under the Department of Interior. It’s not the first time the two agencies have been targeted for consolidation as the report mentions Congressional proposals and similar recommendations dating back to the administration of former president Jimmy Carter.

NMFS – sometimes referred to as NOAA Fisheries – and FWS hold similar responsibilities in protecting endangered species and marine mammals, and the report indicates the split can lead to confusion. Earlier this year, a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would eliminate redundancies in the Endangered Species Act and put FWS in charge of protecting fish that migrate between fresh and ocean waters. 

“This merger would consolidate the administration of the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act in one agency and combine the services’ science and management capacity, resulting in more consistent federal fisheries and wildlife policy and improved service to stakeholders and the public, particularly on infrastructure permitting,” the report stated.

Consolidating the organizations would require congressional approval.

In a statement, John Connelly, the president of the National Fisheries Institute, said his group is ready to help advise Congress and the administration in further evaluating the FWS/NMFS proposal as well as others in the report that could impact the industry.

“The plan appears to be a thorough proposal focused on making government work better,” he said. “The importance of reviewing the structure, shortcomings and successes of agencies should not go unrecognized. This is an important exercise.”

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