House committee advances Billfish Conservation Act amendment

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal bill aiming to amend the Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 and limit the sales of billfish caught by U.S. fishing vessels made it out of a House of Representative committee, June 6.

House Resolution 4528 (H.R. 4528), which was introduced in December 2017 by Rep. Darren Soto, D-Florida, would specifically update the Billfish Conservation Act of 2012. Members of the House’s Committee on Natural Resources allowed Soto’s proposal to move forward.

“Under current law, billfish caught by U.S. vessels that land (number or poundage of fish unloaded onshore by commercial fisherman) in Hawaii or Pacific Insular Areas (American Samoa, Baker Island, Guam, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Island, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island) may be sold and exported to non-U.S. markets or transported to other U.S. markets,” the published summary of H.R. 4528 stated. “This bill requires billfish caught by U.S. vessels that land in Hawaii or Pacific Insular Areas to be retained for sale in those areas.”

The U.S. Senate approved a similar bill – Senate Bill 396, or S. 396 – on Oct. 2, 2017.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association, or NMMA, expressed its support of H.R. 4528.

“The Billfish Conservation Act of 2012 banned the importation of all billfish caught by foreign fleets into the continental United States and, perhaps most importantly, set an example for other countries to pursue similar conservation efforts once thought impossible,” an NMMA statement on H.R. 4528’s committee passage stated. “However, questions arose over whether the same prohibitions on foreign-caught billfish imposed by the bill also applied to billfish caught commercially in Hawaii. If commercially caught billfish could be transported from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland, it would circumvent the intent of the conservation measure.

“H.R. 4528 and S. 396 simply clarify that billfish landed in Hawaii must be retained there. Implemented as originally intended, the law should make it easier for the U.S. to establish a greater leadership role for the international protection of billfish,” the NMMA statement continued.

Photo Credit: Southwest Fisheries Science Center

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