On Monday, December 7th at 10 a.m. in Riverhead, NY, the Committee on Natural Resources will hold an oversight field hearing on “Restoring Atlantic Fisheries and Protecting the Regional Seafood Economy.” This hearing will focus on challenges relating to the management, access to and science of key commercial and recreational fisheries in the parts of the Atlantic region

This special oversight hearing of the House Committee on Natural Resources will be held in the Multipurpose Room at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts Center at 20 East Maine Street, in Riverhead, NY.

In an official issued by Committee Chairman, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the hearing will focus on the lack of science and inadequate data collection used in the management of key species including striped bass and summer flounder, as well as other potential federal regulatory issues in the region that could hinder access to these fisheries and hurt the regional seafood economy.

According to Chairman Bishop, the Mid-Atlantic regional marine economy supported nearly 17 million full and part-time jobs in 2012 and generated a combined gross state product of all included states of $2.7 trillion. However, he noted that members of the fishing industry have expressed concerns that conflicting science on affected fisheries stocks has inhibited access to these resources for both commercial and recreational anglers. In particular is pending cutback to fluke in 2016.

While the congressional hearing itself is open to the public, witnesses expected to testify will do so by invitation only and include Jim Donofrio (Recreational Fishing Alliance), Bonnie Brady (Long Island Commercial Fishing Association) Greg DiDomenico (Garden State Seafood Association), chef Kerry Heffernan (Grand Banks Restaurant), Capt. Joe McBride (Montauk Boatmen & Captains Association), Patrick Paquette (Basic Strategies), and Dr. Paul Rago (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at Woods Hole, Massachusetts).

Topics expected to be covered at this hearing include allocation quotas of fluke, the EEZ transit zone between Montauk and Block Island, and overall access issues in New York, New Jersey and throughout New England, which is expected to include the Obama administration’s efforts to create the first Marine National Monument in the Atlantic off the coast of Cape Cod.

Earlier this year the House passed H.R. 1335, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act (Young, R-AK). The legislation includes federal fisheries management reforms that affect the Atlantic. Specifically, the bill increases transparency in the development of fishery science and the management decisions, empowers regional management bodies by giving them flexibility under federal law to tailor management plans to regional needs, increases state and local data use in federal fisheries management decisions, and ensures consistency in federal fishery management by clarifying that the Magnuson-Stevens Act should govern federal fisheries even in areas such as marine sanctuaries and monuments.

Witnesses are expected to discuss the need to update the Magnuson-Stevens Act at this hearing. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-New York) is the congressional representative for the First District of New York which includes Montauk and Riverhead and is also expected to attend the hearing.

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