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Congress bars national marine monument appropriations
Tuesday, July 19, 2016 @ 08:25:16 EDT

U.S. House Makes Strong Statement Against Marine Monument

July 14, 2016 — The following was released by the National Coalition for Fishing Communities:

WASHINGTON (NCFC) — The U.S. House of Representatives made a strong statement against the declaration of marine monuments last night, passing an amendment offered by Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-New York) to bar funding for the designation of any National Marine Monuments by the President.  The amendment to H.R. 5538, the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, passed the House by a vote of 225-202. Congressman Zeldin represents a coastal district and the fishing hub of eastern Long Island, N.Y.

Yesterday, National Coalition for Fishing Communities (NCFC) members the Garden State Seafood Association (NJ), the Red Crab Harvesters Association (MA), the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, and Blue Water Fisheries Inc. (NY) asked fellow NCFC members to reach out to their representatives to support the amendment. The Montauk Tilefish Association (NY) and the Monkfish Defense Fund joined them in calling for support for the amendment.

Mr. Zeldin explained that he offered the amendment to keep commercial fishermen from losing access to important fishing areas through Marine Monument Designations. Opposition to the amendment was led by Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-Massachusetts) and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine).

“As we heard at a field hearing in Riverhead, New York, unilateral marine monument designations override the current public process of established fisheries management and threatens the livelihood of the U.S. fishing industry,” said House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah).

“Congressman Zeldin’s amendment brings us one step closer to protecting local economies while safeguarding local input in management decisions,” Chairman Bishop continued. “Many Presidents—but not all—have used the Antiquities Act, but they use it sparingly. Only a few Administrations, including this one, have abused the Act. President Obama has a long history of abusing the Antiquities Act, locking up land and water with the stroke of a pen.”

“We applaud Congressman Zeldin for his leadership on protecting fishermen both in his district here on Long Island, and across America,” said Bonnie Brady of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association.

Marine Monuments are large areas of ocean where commercial fishing would be banned without consulting the local community, fishermen, or regional fishery managers. Mr. Zeldin’s amendment mandates that, “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to declare a national monument under section 320301 of title 54, United States Code, in the exclusive economic zone of the United States established by Proclamation Numbered 5030, dated March 10, 1983.”

The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate. Any differences between the House and Senate bills must be worked out between the two bodies, and a final bill is expected to be passed by both chambers before Sept. 30. Should the amendment survive the conference process, it will complicate the Obama Administration’s ability to act. While it would not stop a declaration, it would not allow funds to be spent to implement a declaration.

In 2014, President Obama declared a 407,000 square mile National Marine Monument in the Pacific Ocean where commercial fishing was banned and recreational fishing was severely limited.

Now important fishing areas in the Northwest Atlantic, on the West Coast, and in Alaska, where fishermen have worked for centuries, are under consideration for Monument designations with little public input and no transparency.

In a letter to House colleagues, Mr. Zeldin stated that there is an emerging national consensus that “any efforts to create marine protected areas in the EEZ must be done through the transparent and consultative process laid out by the landmark Magnuson-Stevens fishery conservation law. No one is more invested in protecting America’s waters from overfishing than the hardworking families who rely upon fishing for their livelihoods.”