CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
The House is scheduled to consider S. 1609 under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage, on Tuesday, December 14, 2010. S. 1609 was introduced on August 6, 2009, by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and was approved in the Senate by unanimous consent on November 18, 2010. The bill was referred to the House Natural Resources Committee, which took no official action.
S. 1609 would authorize and facilitate the establishment of fishing cooperatives by the longline fishermen (those who fish with lines and hooks rather than nets or traps) operating in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI). Under current law, such longline cod fishing license holders are subject to an annual quota. The legislation would allow fishermen holding a total of 80 percent of all fishing licenses in the BSAI Pacific cod fishery to enter into a cooperative agreement. Upon entry, the Secretary of Commerce would follow guidelines established in the bill to allocate a quota to the cooperative as a whole, which would then divide that quota among its members each year.
According to House Report 111-250, the Pacific cod fisheries in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) regions are the oldest Alaskan groundfish fisheries. Fishing activity began in the fisheries around 1865 and peaked during the period from 1916 to 1920. Alaskan Pacific cod fisheries are managed jointly at the State and Federal levels. The fishery management plans (FMPs) governing Pacific cod control fishing activity through a variety of means, including permits and limited entry, catch quotas, gear restrictions, closed waters, seasons, by catch limits and rates, and other measures. According to the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, the bill would “permit the fleet to allocate the total allowable catch in the fishery among their members based on their catch history. This, in turn, would enable them to better predict demands on their time and resources and facilitate cost effective operations, and to put an end to the dangerous race for fish that currently exists in so many fisheries.”
According to CBO, “implementing S. 1609 would have no significant impact on the federal budget.”