Fighting for Florida

Washington, D.C. – Today, at a hearing of the Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio questioned Mr. Eric Schwaab, Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, NOAA, about the development and implementation of federal fisheries’ policies that are hurting Florida anglers and costing jobs. Check out the video and transcript below:

Transcript And Video From Today’s Subcommittee Hearing:

 

Senator Rubio: “Before I ask my question, I just want to lay out how important this issue is to Florida, from an economic standpoint, I’m sure you’re both aware of it, and I know Senator Nelson will be back in a minute, and he’ll talk about this as well. But from Florida, this is almost a $13 billion industry. More than half of that is in recreational fishing endeavors. In fact, we’ve got over about 131,000 jobs in Florida that are built on recreational fishing.

“I think there’s two starting points for my question that I think we all agree on, and the first is the sustainable fisheries is a goal we all share, and, in fact, I don’t think anyone has a bigger stake in that than the fishermen themselves. And the second is in order to have a good management plan, we have to have good data, and that the decisions that are being made have to be driven by the data, and of course, number three, that data has to be used effectively.

“What we can’t afford to do is arbitrarily shut down fishing based on incomplete or insufficient data for a lot of different reasons. First of all, the economic impact of it is absolutely devastating. Last year when I traveled the state, I was campaigning at the time, and I ran into people who were being wiped out not just by some of these restrictions that have been put in place, but they also got hit with an oil spill in parts of our state, which was a double whammy, and it was just devastating for many of these folks that couldn’t get going again, and I’m not sure they’re going to be able to get going this year.

“The second is that it undermines the legitimacy of these laws when it’s not based on data that people believe in. It undermines the legitimacy of the law. It undermines the agencies that are trying to implement the law. And I would add that one of the things it does is it creates this rift, this fight between two parties that I think have the same interest in mind, and that’s protecting the stock. But it creates this fight between them that’s driven by the fact that they know that these decisions aren’t being made on data that’s accurate because it’s not being shown to them.

“So, obviously I think data, as far as the Florida perspective and probably the national perspective, is critical to all of this and that’s why I’m puzzled as I looked at some of this. It appeared the Administration’s transferred about $6 million from the Cooperative Research Program to the National Catch Share Program, and then it transferred another $11.4 million from the Fisheries Research and Management Program to the Catch Share Program. My question is if data is a priority, and if it is, why isn’t it being reflected, at least in my mind based on what I’m reading, on the way we’re funding some of these programs?”