Similar legislation would be introduced in the US House in March.
Kerry wrote in a recent op-ed article published in the Gloucester Times in Massachusetts that the purpose of the legislation is to return the use of Saltonstall-Kennedy funds to fishermen. For research and development. That was the original intent of the fund, created by Massachusetts Senators Leverett Saltonstall and John F. Kennedy in 1954.
Under their law, Kerry noted, 30 percent of the duties on imported fish products were to be transferred to a grant program to benefit the US fishing industry. “It was meant to be a permanent appropriation to promote science, research and the development of American fisheries,” he said. As years passed, use of those funds was side tracked to fund other priorities, and the money was not going where it was originally intended, he said.
For 2010 alone, estimated total duties collected on imports of fish products were $3767.6 million. Thirty percent of that total, some $113 million, should have gone toward improving science and helping fisheries, but in 2011, only $8.4 million of that $113 million was used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for grants for fisheries research and development projects. The rest was used for other operations in NOAA.
The Kerry-Snowe legislation to provide exclusive funding to support fisheries and the communities that rely on them, would be known as the Fisheries Investment and Regulatory Relief Act of 2012.
It would direct implementation of regional fishery investment plans, which would be developed by the regional fishery management councils, released in the Federal Register for public comment and need approval by the Secretary of Commerce.
Priorities would include everything from more frequent stock assessments and better recreational data to crucial habitat restoration.
The legislation also contains specific guidelines for selection of members of the fishery investment committees, including conflict of interest issues.
A copy of the legislation is at http://www.savingseafood.org/images/documents/washington/03-08-12%20firra%20final.pdf.