Pallone Voices Concern Over Three Issues Included in Ocean Commission Report

Apr 23, 2004

Long Branch, NJ --- After reviewing the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy report issued earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), ranking Democrat on the House Fisheries, Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee, today voiced concern over three provisions in the report that would initiate saltwater fishing licenses, change the fisheries management council authority, and exploit the ocean's mineral and other non-living resources.

Pallone sent a letter today to Admiral James D. Watkins, Chairman of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, writing that he hopes the objectionable recommendations in the report relating to recreational fishing and exploitation of the ocean's natural resources do not overshadow the positive recommendations relative to pollution problems.

"I am worried that the report will not solve any of our ocean's problems unless we have broad support of our fishermen, environmentalists and other stakeholders," Pallone wrote in his letter to Admiral Watkins. "It would be best to quickly dismiss the notion of a saltwater fishing license, in particular, and any further exploitation of the nation's offshore mineral resources. If not, momentum will build against the Ocean's Commission report and other recommendations will be difficult to implement."

Pallone wrote that there are many reasons why he does not support initiating saltwater licenses, but pointed to the failure of saltwater licenses in New Jersey for bluefin tuna to better count the number of bluefin and anglers participating in the fishery. The New Jersey congressman said the state still does not have accurate catch figures from implementing such licenses. Instead, Pallone wrote, we have $220,000 per year going into contractors' pockets at the expense of recreational anglers.

"The bluefin tuna example shows how little saltwater licenses contribute to obtaining accurate catch figures," Pallone wrote. "I would be concerned that recreational anglers would be taxed, but the proceeds would not be used properly. As you know, there could be other means of obtaining accurate catch figures through money contributed to federal and state governments through other funding mechanisms, such as the Wallop-Breaux Act and new legislation offered by the Sportfishing and Boating Equity Act (H.R. 2839), which I have cosponsored. This would add more than $100 million to the Aquatic Resources Trust Fund annually."

Pallone wrote that he's also concerned regional fishery management councils may also be affected by the report because the councils would have to defer to yet another layer of bureaucracy. Pallone said it would be a mistake to take any more authority away from the regional councils, which are more representative of local interests than any national board.

The New Jersey congressman also voiced concern over Commission recommendations that much of the funding originate from offshore revenues from oil and gas, aquaculture, sandmining, and future sources of energy such as windfarms.

"These funds, placed in an Ocean Policy Trust Fund, often come from harmful activities and exploitation of the coastal and marine environment," Pallone continued in his letter. "This completely contradicts the reason for the report in the first place, in that we should be working towards cleaning our oceans of pollution and overexploition.

"For example, sandmining has the potential to destroy offshore habitat for fish and other organisms," Pallone continued. "There has never been an outer continental shelf sand and gravel lease sale in the U.S., and the potential for such leases now create the likelihood of destroying thousands of square miles of habitat. The health of the coastal area of New Jersey, which is vital to the health of our economy, would be threatened should there be any leasing of the outer continental shelf for sand and gravel sale."

Despite these major concerns, Pallone applauded the Commission's recognition of the importance of decreasing both point and non-point source pollution. The New Jersey congressman said these programs are extremely under-funded, and that he continues to work hard to increase funding for them.

The Oceans Act of 2000 created the 16-member, independent commission and is chaired by Retired Admiral James Watkins. It is the first review of marine issues in 30 years and has established findings and developed recommendations for a new comprehensive national ocean policy. The recommendations addressed issues such as: ocean governance, stewardship of marine resources, pollution prevention and enhancing marine science, commerce and transportation. The Commission heard testimony from hundreds of stakeholders and concerned citizens who expressed the need for the states and local governments to play a more important role in the management and use of the ocean and coasts. An executive summary can be found at: https://oceancommission.gov/documents/prelimreport/overview_summary.pdf