EPA fishing vessel discharge exemption still in limbo

  • By Molly Dischner
  • Sunday, November 30, 2014 10:14pm
  • News

The fishing vessel exemption to existing Environmental Protection Agency vessel discharge regulations regarding is due to expire in December, and Alaska’s senators are supporting differing solutions.

Two bills filed this month could extend the exemption, which expires Dec. 18 either permanently or temporarily.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced a bill offering a one-year extension in conjunction with Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on Nov. 19.

The next day, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, introduced a bill with a permanent exemption; Sen. Mark Begich is a co-sponsor on that bill.

Both bills are standalone, and don’t have any other issues added.

Also currently in the Senate is the version of the Coast Guard reauthorization already passed by the House. That includes a permanent exemption, and could also still pass before Dec. 18.

This isn’t the first time those same players have tried to solve the issue. Begich and Rubio introduced legislation last spring that would provide a permanent exemption for fishing vessels, and also streamline other water discharge standards. The proposed Vessel Incidental Discharge Act would apply the Coast Guard’s 2012 ballast water treatment requirements as the general national standard for ballast water discharge. Fishing vessels, however, would be permanently exempt.

Incidental discharges by commercial vessels less than 79 feet, fishing vessels including seafood processors and recreation vessels, as well as discharges for research, safety or similar purposes, would all be exempt.

That stalled in committee, and Rubio has said that his new temporary exemption would allow additional time to negotiate the larger bill during the new congress.

Murkowski said she supported the temporary extension to provide time for the rest of the package to be finished.

“This one-year extension is an imperative for Alaska’s fishing communities,” said Murkowski in a formal statement. During a February Senate subcommittee hearing, representatives from United Fishermen of Alaska, the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association said that a permanent fix is needed.

At the hearing, United Fishermen of Alaska Executive Director Julianne Curry said tighter regulations would be extremely impactful for commercial, and some recreational, vessels in Alaska and throughout the country.

Parts of the regulations are “so draconian that they’re almost absurd to be able to follow,” said UFA’s Julianne Curry.

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