March 30, 2017

Marine Monument Designations Sideline Communities and the Domestic Fishing Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 15, 2017

Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held an oversight hearing on the creation and management of marine monuments and sanctuaries. The panel overwhelmingly objected to the lack of local input, transparency and scientific scrutiny in the marine monument designation process.

Federal decision-making directly impacts local citizens, local economies and the environment. It is important to review how these decisions are being implemented, and, where needed, correct or improve the laws guiding these decisions,Subcommittee Vice Chairman Daniel Webster (R-FL) said.

Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) discussed his visit to New Bedford, MA, the nation’s top-grossing commercial fishing port, with Democrat Mayor Jon Mitchell, who was unable to attend due to weather.

“[D]uring my visit to New Bedford, we met with dozens of local fishermen and industry to talk about the Magnuson-Stevens reauthorization as well as the state of federal fisheries management. It didn’t take long for the conversation to quickly turn to the then-proposed Marine National Monument off of the coast of Massachusetts. However, the fishermen weren’t just blindly opposing the Monument, they actually came to the table with a pragmatic solution,” Bishop stated.

Unfortunately with the stroke of his pen, President Obama ignored a viable alternative developed with stakeholders and unnecessarily cordoned off vital acreage for fishing communities off the coast of Cape Cod.

In his written testimony, Mayor Mitchell pointed out inherently flawed issues in the monument designation process: “It lacks sufficient amounts of all the ingredients that good policy-making requires: scientific rigor, direct industry input, transparency, and a deliberate pace that allows adequate time and space for review,” Mitchell wrote.  

“A decision-making process driven by the simple assertion of executive branch authority ultimately leaves ocean management decisions permanently vulnerable to short-term political considerations,” Mitchell added. “Such an outcome is cause for deep concern no matter one’s position in the current policy debates.”

Brian Hallman, Executive Director of the American Tunaboat Association, outlined the troubling conflicts monuments and sanctuaries have with established procedures including the federal Magnuson-Stevens Act and international treaties and conventions.

The fundamental purpose of marine monuments, as I understand it, is to preclude, or at least severely limit, human activity in the designated area […] but limiting fishing via marine monuments makes no sense whatsoever. […] The establishment of marine monuments completely pre-empts and usurps these longstanding, legally binding and effective processes,” Hallman stated.

Click here to read full witness testimony.

Last week Chairman Bishop and Rep. Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa) sent a letter to President Trump requesting the removal of all marine monument fishing prohibitions. Click here to read the letter.