CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, September 6, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 4245, to exempt importation and exportation of sea urchins and sea cucumbers from licensing requirements under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, under suspension of the rules. The bill was introduced on December 11, 2015, by Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which ordered the bill reported, as amended, on June 15, 2016 by unanimous consent.
H.R. 4245 adds exported sea urchins, sea cucumbers, squid, octopus, and cuttlefish that are designated for human consumption to a list of exempted shellfish and fishery products from licensing requirements under the Endangered Species Act. Prior to a 2008 United States Fish and Wildlife Service rule, these species were exempt from such inspection and licensing fees.
Under the authority of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has the authority to inspect and regulate fish and fishery products that are to be imported or exported. According to USFWS, this broad authority allows the agency to regulate and inspect many “wildlife species used for food” that are not protected under ESA or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and allows it to charge licensing and inspection fees to importers and exporters of all fish, fish products, and wildlife.
In an effort to help preserve domestic and international trade of U.S. seafood and seafood products, USFWS established criteria to exempt shellfish and other non-living fishery products if used for consumption from these regulations. To qualify for this exemption, the species must not be listed as injurious under the Lacey Act and not listed under the ESA or CITES. This exemption is essential to the trade of shellfish as many species, such as oysters, clams, lobster and others are often traded live and/or have a very short timeframe for safe consumption. USFWS has a current exemption list that includes many of these species.
Until 2008, other key species, such as sea urchins, sea cucumbers, squid, octopus, and cuttlefish were also exempt from the import and export licensing and requirements. On December 8, 2008, USFWS published a final rule revising its authority to regulate the import and export of certain species to clarify requirements and update license and inspection exemptions. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), commented that USFWS’ definition of “shellfish” was not consistent with NMFS’ or the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. NMFS and industry comments asked that the definition be revised. H.R. 4245, as amended, corrects this inconsistency between the two federal agencies by exempting domestically harvested or processed sea urchins, sea cucumbers, squid, octopus and cuttlefish from USFWS export inspection requirements.
According to the bill’s sponsor, “These inspections have resulted in the loss of a highly valuable and highly perishable product. There is really no need for sea urchins to be inspected […]. There isn’t any scientific basis for singling out this species and it just doesn’t make sense. ”
 See Committee on Natural Resources memo, “H.R. 4245 (Rep. Chellie Pingree), To exempt importation and exportation of sea urchins and sea cucumbers from licensing requirements under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.” June 14 and 15, 2016 at 1.
 Id. at 2.
 See. Rep. Pingree’s Press Release, “Pingree, Poliquin to testify at hearing for bill to protect sea urchin and sea cucumber industries” February 1, 2016.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that any net effects on direct spending would be negligible, and revenues would not be affected. CBO further estimates that enacting H.R. 4245 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2027.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.