Bills signed into law in the 116th Congress

The following West Coast fishery-related bills were signed into law in the 116th Congress.

VETOED: Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act

This bill addresses certain driftnet fishing. (Driftnet fishing is a method of fishing in which a gillnet composed of a panel or panels of webbing, or a series of such gillnets, is placed in the water and allowed to drift with the currents and winds for the purpose of entangling fish in the webbing.)

Currently, the use of large-scale drift gillnets with a total length of 2.5 kilometers or more is prohibited in the United States. The bill expands the definition of large-scale driftnet fishing to prohibit the use of gillnets with a mesh size of 14 inches or greater. This expanded prohibition does not apply within the U.S. exclusive economic zone for five years.

The Department of Commerce must conduct a transition program to facilitate the phase out of large-scale driftnet fishing and to promote the adoption of alternative fishing practices that minimize the incidental catch of living marine resources.

Commerce must award grants to program participants.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council may recommend and Commerce may approve regulations that require charter operators to pay fees on vessels that harvest Pacific halibut in specific International Pacific Halibut Commission regulatory areas. (Source)

Young Fishermen’s Development Act
(signed Jan. 5, 2021)

The bipartisan Young Fishermen’s Development Act (H.R.1240, S.496) establishes a national grant program to support initiatives to educate, train, and mentor young and beginning fishermen.

The bill implements a program allowing fishing associations, universities, tribal organizations, and others to compete for grant funding to train young commercial fishermen in sustainable fishing and business practices. It solidifies and unites current piecemeal training efforts into a cohesive, national initiative to advance this critical mission.  

The program’s $2 million annual budget is fully paid for using monies from fines paid by fishermen who have violated fishing rules. Lastly, the grants cannot be used to purchase fishing permits, quota, or other harvesting rights. (Source)

Columbia River In-Lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites Improvement Act 
(Signed Dec. 20, 2019)

The Columbia River In-Lieu and Treaty Fishing Access Sites Improvement Act calls on the Bureau of Indian Affairs to conduct a much-needed assessment of current safety and sanitation conditions at the sites, in coordination with the affected Columbia River Treaty Tribes; and authorizes the Bureau to work on improving sanitation and safety conditions in several key areas such as structural improvements (restrooms, washrooms, and other buildings); safety improvements (wells and infrastructure to address fire concerns, and more); electrical infrastructure to ensure safe electrical hookups; and basic sewer and septic infrastructure.

Save Our Seas Act 2.0
(Signed Dec. 18, 2020)

This Act:

  • Establishes a Marine Debris Response Trust Fund for NOAA to use in responding to marine debris events. 
  • Creates a Marine Debris Foundation to encourage, accept, and administer private gifts in connection with the activities and services of the NOAA Marine Debris Program.
  • Authorizes a prize competition to advance innovation in the removal and prevention of plastic waste.
  • Directs federal agencies to prioritize marine debris removal, expand derelict vessel recycling, and establish a pilot program to assess the feasibility of providing incentives for fishermen who capture marine debris at sea to properly dispose of the waste.
  •  Requires the Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee to report to Congress on innovative uses for plastic waste, causes of microfiber pollution, and opportunities to minimize the creation of new plastic waste. 

The bill incentivizes international engagement to address marine debris by:

  • Expressing Congressional support for international cooperation to raise awareness about sources of plastic waste, the effects of mismanaged waste, and expanding systems to recover, reuse, and recycle waste.
  • Directing federal agencies to prioritize encouraging, advising, and facilitating foreign countries to improve capacity and operation of waste management systems.
  • Requiring the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress assessing the potential for negotiating a new international agreement or creating a new forum to address marine debris.
  • Mandating that the Executive Branch consider marine debris in negotiations of international agreements. 

The bill aims to prevent the creation of new marine debris by:

  • Directing the EPA to develop a strategy within one year to improve waste management and recycling infrastructure, harmonize waste collection and recycling protocols, strengthen markets for recycled plastic, and identify barriers to increasing the collection of recyclable materials. 
  • Creating a Waste Management Revolving Fund, Waste Management Infrastructure Grant program, Drinking Water Infrastructure Grant program, Wastewater Infrastructure Grant program, and Trash-Free Water Grant program to assist local waste management authorities in making improvements and deploying waste interceptor technologies in waterways. 
  • Reviewing the use of plastic waste in roadways, bridges, and other infrastructure projects, technology to convert plastic waste into other products like chemicals, fuel, and energy, and the effects of microplastics on food supplies and drinking water sources. (Source)

National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act
(incorporated into America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, signed Oct. 30, 2020)

This bill establishes the National Fish Habitat Board to (1) encourage partnerships among public agencies and other interested parties to promote fish conservation, (2) establish national goals and priorities for fish habitat conservation, (3) recommend to Congress entities for designation as a Fish Habitat Partnership, and (4) review and make recommendations regarding fish habitat conservation projects.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Geological Survey may provide technical and scientific assistance to the partnerships, participants in the fish habitat conservation projects, and the board.

Maritime Security and Fisheries Enforcement Act
(incorporated into National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec. 20, 2019)

The Maritime SAFE Act seeks to curtail IUU fishing and to crack down on seafood industry human rights violations, like the use of forced labor on fishing vessels. It would do so by expanding diplomatic and military mission sets to include combating IUU fishing. Specifically:

  • It asks the state department to prioritize combating IUU fishing in relevant foreign missions.
  • It authorizes the Coast Guard, the State and Commerce Departments (via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA), and the U.S. Agency for International Development to combat IUU fishing through existing enforcement mechanisms and by building capacity in partner countries abroad through initiatives like shiprider agreements and the Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership Program.
  • It incorporates exercises designed to combat IUU fishing into defense readiness programs, including joint exercises with allies and partners.
  • It establishes a standing interagency working group to combat IUU fishing, chaired by representatives from the Coast Guard, the State Department, and NOAA, on a rotating basis, and including members from twelve federal agencies and five white house offices.
  • It requires the secretary of state and NOAA administrator to submit to congress a report on human trafficking in the U.S. seafood supply chain.
  • It raises awareness of and improves seafood transparency and traceability programs abroad. (Source)

A bill to amend the Klamath Basin Water Supply Enhancement Act of 2000 to make certain technical corrections
(signed Oct. 30, 2020)

This bill specifies types of programs the Bureau of Reclamation may participate in, such as land idling (i.e., refraining from cultivating crops on certain land), for the purpose of aligning water supply and demand for users of irrigation water associated with the Klamath Project in Oregon and California. Additionally, the bill provides for the continued use of power from the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program by the Kinsey Irrigation Company and the Sidney Water Users Irrigation District in Montana. (Source)

National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act
(signed Dec. 18, 2020)

NOAA supports university-based programs that focus on studying, conserving, and effectively using U.S. coastal resources through the National Sea Grant Program. The bill reauthorizes the Sea Grant College program through 2025.

With reauthorization, the National Sea Grant College program would receive $87.5 million in FY 2021 increasing incrementally annually to $105.7 million by 2025.  An additional $6 million each year would be authorized for grants to support university research on the biology, prevention, and control of aquatic nonnative species; the biology, prevention, and forecasting of harmful algal blooms; fishery extension activities and other work conducted by Sea Grant colleges.

Along with reauthorization, the bill requires NOAA to award Dean John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowships, which NOAA currently has discretion in awarding. The fellowships support the placement of graduate students in fields related to ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes resources in positions with the executive and legislative branches. (Source)

Digital Coast Act
(signed Dec. 18, 2020)

The Digital Coast project, based at NOAA, makes  up-to-date coastal data readily available to non-experts in the public and private sectors. NOAA pulls together complicated datasets, makes them available on their website for easy and free public access, and provides the tools and training that coastal communities need to turn that data into useful information for their decision making. 

The project works with partners in other federal agencies to coordinate efficient collection of critical data and partners with state, county, and local governments and the private and non-profit sectors to increase access to and use of data resources. 

This bill authorizes the next phase in coastal mapping and information sharing at NOAA. Ocean and shoreline advocates including the U.S. Oceans Commission and the Pew Commission have highlighted the need for modern coastal data, and the 2009 Omnibus Public Land Management Act made investments in data infrastructure. As part of implementation, NOAA launched the Digital Coast project to develop partnerships with coastal entities across the country. The Digital Coast Act would officially authorize the Digital Coast as a program at NOAA and support the next phase in delivering accurate and relevant data to our coastal communities. 

The Digital Coast Partnership includes the National Association of Counties, American Planning Association, Association of State Floodplain Managers, Coastal States Organization, National Estuarine Research Reserves Association, National States Geographic Information Council, The Nature Conservancy, Urban Land Institute, and NOAA. (Source)

Coordinated Ocean Observations and Research Act
(signed Dec. 31, 2020)

This bill reauthorizes through FY2025 and revises the Integrated Coastal and Ocean Observation System, which is a network of federal and regional entities that provide information about the nation’s coasts, oceans, and Great Lakes, as well as new tools and forecasts to improve safety, enhance the economy, and protect the environment.

The bill revises NOAA’s authority to conduct scientific assessments related to storms, and allows NOAA to deploy sensors to areas in coastal states that are at the highest risk of experiencing geophysical events that would cause indeterminate losses.

The bill provides statutory authority for NOAA’s National Water Center. (The center currently exists at NOAA as the research and operational center of excellence for hydrologic analyses, forecasting, and related decision support services.) (Source)

John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act
(signed March 12, 2019)

The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act consists of more than 100 individual bills that were introduced by 50 Senators and several House members, including Utah’s Emery County Public Lands Management Act. The Dingell Act included provisions impacting public lands nationally, including the permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Every Kid Outdoors Program, and improvements to public land access. This bill included the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area Act, which establishes the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta National Heritage Area, and the Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area Designation Act, which designated a wild steelhead Special Management Area in southern Oregon.

Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver (WILD) Act
(signed March 12, 2019)

The WILD Act reauthorizes and funds the Department of the Interior’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program until fiscal year 2023. It requires federal agencies to implement strategic programs to control invasive species; reauthorizes legislation to protect endangered species such as elephants, great apes, turtles, tigers, and others; and establishes monetary-prize competitions for technological innovation in the following categories:  prevention of wildlife poaching and trafficking; promotion of wildlife conservation; management of invasive species; non-lethal management of human-wildlife conflicts; and protection of endangered species.

Great American Outdoors Act
(signed August 4, 2020)

This bill establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund to support deferred maintenance projects on federal lands.

For FY2021-FY2025, there shall be deposited into the fund an amount equal to 50% of all federal revenues from the development of oil, gas, coal, or alternative or renewable energy on federal lands and waters. Deposited amounts must not exceed $1.9 billion for any fiscal year.

The fund must be used for priority deferred maintenance projects in specified systems that are administered by

  • the National Park Service,
  • the Forest Service,
  • the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
  • the Bureau of Land Management, and
  • the Bureau of Indian Education.

The Government Accountability Office must report on the effect of the fund in reducing the backlog of priority deferred maintenance projects for the specified agencies.

Additionally, the bill makes funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanent. The President shall annually report to Congress specified details regarding the allocation of funds to the LWCF. Congress may provide for alternate allocations using specified procedures. (Source)

Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act
(signed January 13, 2020)

A bill to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to reauthorize the National Estuary Program.

America’s Conservation Enhancement Act
(signed Oct. 30, 2020)

The America’s Conservation Enhancement Act includes several conservation provisions that leverage public and private funding to advance conservation. The bill reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Chesapeake Bay Program. Under the bill, NAWCA, which has helped conserve more than 30 million acres of wetlands by leveraging a 3-to-1 match of private to federal funds, would increase its authorized level to $60 million annually for the next five years.

The bill establishes a new chronic wasting disease coordinating task force. It provides $5 million annually, split between the departments of the Interior and Agriculture, for the next five years to combat invasive species.

In addition, the bill sets up an advisory board to develop a new award for reducing human-predator conflict. 

Under one controversial provision, the Environmental Protection Agency is prevented from regulating lead in fishing tackle, under the Toxic Substances Control Act, for the next five years. Lead in ammunition is also exempt from regulation under TSCA. (Source)

Direct Enhancement of Snapper Conservation and the Economy through Novel Devices Act
(signed January 13, 2020)

This bill does not apply to the West Coast, but was tracked because it relates to West Coast issues.

This bill addresses the use of descending devices to release reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico. (A descending device is an instrument that will release fish at a depth sufficient for the fish to be able to recover from the effects of barotrauma.)

Specifically, the bill requires commercial and recreational fishermen to possess a venting tool or descending device that is rigged and ready for use when fishing for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico Exclusive Economic Zone; requires the Department of Commerce to contract with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study and produce a report on discard mortality in the Gulf reef fish fisheries; and requires Commerce and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to develop guidance for reporting discards and associated mortality and develop a plan to assess the effectiveness and usage of barotrauma-reducing devices.