Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA. has introduced the Fishing and Small Vessel Relief Act (S.2194) that would extend a current moratorium exempting fishing vessels and vessels under 79 feet from costly incidental discharge permitting requirements mandated by the US Environmental Protection Agency. These vessels have been continuously exempt since 2008 under a temporary moratorium, as they do not pose a serious environmental risk, Cantwell said.
“Fishermen are key drivers of Washington state’s growing economy,” the senator said. “We need their boats out fishing, not bogged down by regulations meant for large vessels like oil tankers.”
Cantwell said her bill aims to bring stability to small vessel owners uneasy over the impending December 18 expiration of the current moratorium. Most of the more than 115,000 small vessels nationwide that would be covered are commercial fishing boats, but many research vessels, tour boats, tugboats, towboats and offshore supply boats would also qualify.
The EPA’s vessel incidental discharge permitting requirements are intended to prevent water pollution and the spread of invasive species through release of bilge water, ballast and other discharges. These regulations, said Cantwell, are critical to safeguard the environment from large vessels that are more likely to carry pollutants and run a greater risk of introducing invasive species. Vessel discharge from smaller vessels does not pose a serious environmental risk, the senator said.