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Pallone Questions Chairman of Ocean Commission on Three Major Concerns

May 21, 2004
Press Release

Washington, D.C. --- At a House Resources Committee hearing yesterday on the newly released U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy Report, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), a senior member of the committee and the ranking Democrat on the House Fisheries, Conservation, Wildlife and Ocean Subcommittee, voiced his concerns regarding three sections of the report.

In Pallone's questioning of Admiral James D. Watkins, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, the New Jersey congressman asked whether or not the Commission would continue to support saltwater fishing licenses, a proposal Pallone strongly opposes. Chairman Watkins said he continues to support saltwater fishing licenses as a way to create a larger database that would provide better scientific information to managers. Pallone rejected that opinion.

  "I'm opposed to the saltwater fishing license because previous experience with state licenses shows that the revenues aren't necessarily used for fishing purposes," Pallone said to Chairman Watkins. "Other funding mechanisms exist and should be explored."

Pallone said he was concerned that the proposal to use Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Royalties to fund the new initiatives in the report would actually encourage more exploitation of ocean resources in the future. The Chairman unsuccessfully tried to allay Pallone's fears by stating that the Commission is not encouraging more exploitation.

"Certain OCS activities, such as sandmining are not currently permitted," Pallone continued. "In addition, drilling for oil and natural gas, while permitted off the Gulf Coast, is not permitted off the Atlantic Coast. I don't want the Ocean Commission report to open up these activities where they're currently prohibited."

Pallone also voiced his concern over the possibility of Regional Ocean Councils displacing any authority of the Regional Fishery Management Councils. In response, Chairman Watkins said Regional Ocean Councils would be voluntary entities that are supposed to coordinate regional priorities, but that they would not oversee any fishery management. However, the Chairman said that if Regional Ocean Councils were successful, they would serve as a model for future management.

The New Jersey Congressman said Regional Ocean Councils should only exist to fill in the gaps that Regional Fishery Management Councils are not authorized to manage, like coordinating watershed management and wetland protection activities.

Despite these three concerns, Pallone praised Chairman Watkins for his Commission's work. The New Jersey congressman once again applauded the Commission's recognition of the importance of decreasing both point and non-point source pollution, and for advocating for a full time ocean observation and monitoring system, like Rutgers University's field station and underwater observatory near Beach Haven.

Last month, Pallone sent a letter to Chairman Watkins expressing his three major concerns with the report and his hope that they could be addressed at the end of the public comment period, extended now until June 4.