Pallone Voices Concern Over Federal Funding for International Fisheries Commissions
Washington, D.C. --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), ranking Democrat on the House Fisheries, Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee, today expressed concern over inadequate federal funding for the international fisheries commissions and said he and other members of the Subcommittee will be sending a letter to the House Appropriations Committee requesting that the necessary funds be restored in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 appropriations bill that funds the State Department.
The New Jersey congressman voiced his concerns at a Subcommittee hearing today on Capitol Hill regarding U.S. participation in International Fisheries and Wildlife Treaties and Commissions. After hearing testimony from David A. Balton, the State Department's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Ocean and Fisheries, Pallone said he was troubled by language included in a giant omnibus conference report for FY 2004 that directs the State Department to withdraw from lower priority commissions, and refrain from entering into new commitments. Pallone also pointed to a funding shortfall for international fisheries commissions in the final FY 2003 and 2004 appropriations bills of $3.5 million.
"The United States has always been a leader in international fisheries management, but such funding deficiencies seriously undermine that position," Pallone said. "I'm surprised by this deviation in marine conservation and management policy, but I'm hopeful that appropriators will fully fund the program this year.
"I'd also like to see the State Department increase the importance of our nation's participation in international fisheries commissions," Pallone continued. "These agreements are critical to the success of global fisheries management and are vital to the protection of the fishing interests areas of the United States."
Pallone said the lack of funding has resulted in poor data collection and lax enforcement within the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
"Without reliable catch data and better enforcement on tuna by all participating countries, U.S. fisheries management is useless, and our fishermen suffer by being told to catch less fish, while other countries continue to maintain or increase their catch," Pallone said. "Therefore, we need to increase international cooperation in order to protect and conserve fisheries important to the U.S."
Pallone asked Dr. Bill Hogarth, Assistant Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) about the steps being taken by ICCAT to collect reliable recreational catch data from other ICCAT countries. Dr. Hogarth explained that ICCAT has only placed $20,000 towards collecting this information, and the results are still not known. Hogarth said this issue is scheduled for discussion at the next ICCAT meeting in New Orleans this November.