California representative introduces bill to consolidate protection of fish

FISH Act would give Fish and Wildlife Service sole authority to regulate via Endangered Species Act.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The federal government continues to be shutdown but members of Congress are still introducing bills on the floors of both legislative houses – including one to grant the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with sole regulatory authority over the protection of fish and regulation of waterways under the Endangered Species Act, or ESA.

Rep. Ken Calvert, R-California, introduced H.R. 548 on Jan. 15; the bill, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Tom McClintock, R-California, Doug LaMalfa, R-California, Jim Costa, D-California, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, and Michael Simpson, R-Idaho, would shift regulatory authority on ESA matters away from the National Marine Fisheries Service.

H.R. 548, also known as the FISH (Federally Integrated Species Health) Act, would, according to Calvert’s office, “consolidate the protection of fish and the regulation of waterways under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) into a single agency.”

“Currently, both the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have split authority over many of the same waterways under the ESA,” a statement released by Calvert’s office said. “This has caused differing – and even contradictory – regulations at times. The FISH Act places the regulatory authority solely within the FWS.”

Having multiple federal agencies with regulatory authority over endangered species doesn’t make sense, according to Calvert.

“It simply makes no sense to have multiple federal agencies responsible for enforcing the ESA. This unnecessary bureaucratic duplication delays the deployment and operation of critical infrastructure that drives our economy and enhances the natural environment,” Calvert said in a released statement. “The FISH Act is a good government approach that will benefit species and all stakeholders affected by the ESA through a unified approach to managing threatened and endangered species.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service has mostly managed terrestrial and freshwater organisms, while the National Marine Fisheries Services is responsible for marine wildlife, such as whales and anadromous fish (salmon, for example).

“The Federally Integrated Species Health Act would transfer NMFS’ ESA responsibilities for management of anadromous species to the FWS,” Calvert’s staff stated.

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