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2013 Year End Review: A Continued Commitment to Sound Science, Conservation, and Fishermen
December 10, 2013

During 2013, the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Republicans, and ranking member U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), continued a commitment to sound science, conservation, and fisherman by taking various steps to conserve and improve the quality of the fisheries, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico.

Below are a few of the key actions Vitter took this year:

2013 International Game Fish Association (IGFA) Conservation Awarded to Sen. Vitter, February 25, 2013

Sen. Vitter received the IGFA Conservation Award for his leadership in passing the Billfish Conservation Act and having it signed into law. The Act addressed the issue of significant depletion of the billfish population due to commercial overfishing. Click here for more.

This comes on the heels of Sen. Vitter receiving the "Conservationist of the Year" award from the Center for Coastal Conservation in 2012.

GAO Request - Stock Assessments with Sen. Rubio, February 28, 2013

One issue that has continued to plague the Gulf of Mexico fisheries is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) continued use of outdated numbers and research methods to establish season, allocation, and quota limits. On February 28, Sen. Vitter joined Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and other U.S. Senators, requesting that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review the methodology and practices employed by NOAA to conduct stock assessments. The review is still pending. Click here to read more.

Vitter Introduces Offshore Fairness Act, April 4, 2013

A continued problem is the mix-and-matching of federal rules that regulate the states along the Gulf of Mexico. Sen. Vitter introduced the Offshore Fairness Act, which would extend the offshore jurisdiction for states from Louisiana to Virginia from three miles to ten miles. Currently Texas and the East Coast of Florida have jurisdiction for three marine leagues, the equivalent of 10.36 miles, off their coasts. This bill would give the same rights and privileges to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, all of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy introduced the companion bill in the House of Representatives. Click here to read more.

Vitter introduces bill to mandate state management of red snapper, April 17, 2013

Sen. Vitter introduced a bill that would require the State governments of all states along the Gulf of Mexico to develop and agree upon a management plan for the red snapper fishery. The purpose of this bill is address the concerns that stems from the harsh seasonal and catch limit restrictions placed on the fishery due to NOAA's continued use of faulty data that NOAA has continually utilized to establish season and catch limits on the Gulf's red snapper fishery.

Vitter Introduces Artificial Reef Promotion Act, May 23, 2013

An unintended, yet profoundly beneficial, reaction to the placing of oil production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico has been the development of vast reef like ecosystems on and around the platforms. Sen. Vitter introduced the Artificial Reef Promotion Act, which would increase the utilization of decommissioned Gulf platforms as artificial reefs, as part of the Rigs to Reefs program. Click here to read more.

Louisiana Withdraws from Flawed Red Snapper Federal Program, September 6, 2013

Sen. Vitter lauded the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries' decision to withdraw from the Marine Recreation Information Program (MRIP), which estimates the annual recreational red snapper harvest in the Gulf of Mexico. MRIP officials said the red snapper have been overharvested in the summer and were on the verge of significantly shortening the fall fishing season. The federal program's estimates for how many pounds of red snapper were harvested exceeded the State's by nearly 200,000.

Save "the Pickets," September 25, 2013

Sen. Vitter wrote to the Honorable Sally Jewell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI), regarding their planned removal of platform Ship Shoal 26, commonly known in Louisiana as "the Pickets," which is a popular site for local anglers.

"We in the Gulf Coast are familiar with how idle rigs can develop into fertile marine habitats, home to some of the best fishing in the world. These artificial reefs are incredibly important to the growth and sustainability of the economy and environment in the Gulf. With Secretary Sally Jewell's help, my hope is to preserve ‘the Pickets' site for current and future generations of Louisiana anglers to enjoy," said Vitter.

Managing Invasive Lionfish Species, September 27, 2013

On September 27, Sen. Vitter wrote NOAA and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, regarding the adverse impacts of the invasive lionfish on economically important species in the Gulf of Mexico. In an effort to protect the Gulf's commercially valuable species, including grouper, snapper, and some crustaceans, from the voracious lionfish, Sen. Vitter encouraged NOAA and the Gulf Council to promote the harvest of lionfish to the more than four million recreational anglers who fish the Gulf region each year.

Drawing the Line for Red Snapper Allocation, October 24, 2013

In a letter to Penny Pritzker, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC), Sen. Vitter voiced his concern surrounding a lack of leadership at NOAA in implementing its own catch share policy, which has resulted in using outdated allocation quotas for fish in the Gulf of Mexico, particularly for red snapper.

Vitter made specific requests to the Commerce Secretary to implement the provisions of NOAA's own National Catch Share Policy and to update the Gulf's outdated allocation review of the red snapper fishery. Click here to read more.

NOAA Agrees to Update Allocation Review Policy, October 29, 2013

In response to Sen. Vitter's October 24, 2013 letter to Department of Commerce Secretary Pritzker, NOAA agreed to Vitter's request to:

• Engage all regional Fishery Management Councils, with the goal of developing guidance documents for the periodic review of allocation quotas to be included in the National Guidelines.

• Increase its leadership role on the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (Gulf Council), including supporting the addition of Amendment 28, a proposal of six options for updating allocations levels of allowable catch of red snapper beyond the historical high level of 9.12 million pounds, to the Gulf Council's February agenda.

Click here to read more.

EPW Republicans will be sending out additional documents recapping the committee's work on various issues. Stay tuned for more in the coming days and weeks.

 

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