US FY19 spending bill signed into law, second shutdown averted

Published on
February 15, 2019

President Trump on Friday, 15 February signed an omnibus spending bill into law that guarantees funding for NOAA Fisheries and numerous other federal agencies through the end of the fiscal year.

Facing a midnight Friday deadline to avert a second government shutdown this year, the Senate, by an 83-16 vote, and House, by a 300-128 vote, both passed the plan on Thursday.

In addition to funding NOAA Fisheries through the end of September, the bill also contains a few other items related to the seafood industry. 

It includes USD 15 million (EUR 13.3 million) for the Food and Drug Administration to conduct inspections of foreign seafood manufacturers. It marks a 26-percent increase in funding for inspections from last year.

The Southern Shrimp Alliance had been pushing for the increased funding, saying cheaper foreign shrimp, which makes up the majority of imported seafood, can contain antibiotics that are not approved in the United States. The SSA cited Government Accountability Office reports that indicated the FDA is only able to inspect about 2 percent of foreign seafood that arrives in U.S. ports. Of that number, only a small fraction is tested for drug residues. 

The USD 3.1 million (EUR 2.7 million) increase was initially approved by the Senate in July, thanks to an amendment by Louisiana U.S. Senators John Kennedy and Bill Cassidy, both Republicans.

The spending plan also sets aside USD 10 million (EUR 8.9 million) to implement electronic logbooks on chartered fishing vessels in the Gulf of Mexico. In a statement, the Environmental Defense Fund said the initiative will update data collection for the Gulf’s recreational fisheries and thanked U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama for securing the money. 

“Reporting through electronic logbooks generates more real-time, verifiable, and high-quality recreational fishing data than the outdated paper reporting systems that are all too common in U.S. fisheries,” EDF’s Gulf of Mexico Oceans Program Director Robert E. Jones said. “Better access to more reliable data will help the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) better understand and manage overall fishing levels for charter fishing operators and the millions of American anglers who rely on their businesses to fish recreationally in the Gulf.”

Other seafood-related items include up to USD 15 million (EUR 13.3 million) in funding that can be used when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross declares a disaster. It also calls for the update of “Advice About Eating Fish,” a joint report from the FDA and Environmental Protection Agency.

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