October 24, 2014

Congressman Duncan calls new ocean policy overreaching

The National Ocean Policy calls for evaluation of how Americans use the ocean– fishing, tourism, industry, military, and energy– and identify how to manage these uses more sustainably. It also calls for the development of regional ocean plans.

Opponents of the policy say it will retard and, in some cases, suspend commercial and recreational fishing in ocean territory and the Great Lakes. Members of the sports fishing community complained about the policy during a recent House committee hearing. Third District Congressman Jeff Duncan, a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, says the Obama Administration did not get input from persons in the fishing industry before implementing the policy.  

Jeff Duncan

“They’re not talking to people actually involved in the fisheries on a regular basis; the captains and the commercial fishermen that are seeing healthy fish stocks out in the oceans,” Duncan told WCRS Radio in Greenwood, “They’re basing their policies on some computer model. It creates an expansion of government. ”

Supporters of the policy contend that its development was aided by the help of a stakeholder engagement process, which included hundreds of recreational and commercial fishermen and the organized sport fishing lobbies.

Environmental groups support the change. “The National Ocean Policy will help fishermen by ensuring important fishing grounds are protected from pollution and habitat destruction, making fishing a viable livelihood today and into the future,” Sarah Chasis, the director of the National Resources Defense Council’s ocean initiative wrote on the group’s blog.

Duncan says, as the policy is being implemented, he and other lawmakers that oppose it are still  working on finding ways to curtail it.

“Agencies such as the Department of the Interior, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) can now start to implement portions of the new policy, I think we have to go back at look at the original law that has allowed the president to boldly implement this National Ocean Policy and reject it (and) overturn it with another piece of legislation.”

The Obama Administration has commented that commercial and recreational fishing will continue to be managed under the same laws and regulations such as the Magnuson-Stevens Act, the Regional Fishery Management Councils and all relevant state and federal laws. There will not be a ban on fishing.

Anne Eller of Greenwood affiliate WCRS contributed to this report.