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DeFazio-Huffman-Herrera Beutler Amendment Saves West Coast Fishermen $2.4 million

May 30, 2014
Press Release

Washington, D.C. –On Thursday, the House passed an amendment sponsored by Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) that will save West Coast fishermen $2.4 million. Their amendment would suspend for a year, the collection of a cost recovery fee in the West Coast Trawl Rationalization Program and provide some relief to groundfish fishermen who are facing mounting costs at a time when they are already struggling to make ends meet.

“West Coast fishermen already face major financial obstacles, including paying off the high interest buyback loan and costs of carrying mandatory observers on board at all times.  Without action from Congress, a $2.4 million ‘recovery fee’ that began this year would continue to be assessed at a time when family fishermen can ill afford it.  This bipartisan amendment delays the fee to provide much needed relief to struggling fishermen, allows regulators to improve the rules governing the West Coast catch share program, adopts electronic monitoring, and gives Congress the opportunity to refinance the high-interest buyback loan – one of my top legislative priorities,” said DeFazio.

“The economies of communities up and down California’s North Coast depend on the success of our local fishermen, but additional costs and mounting fees are putting them on increasingly tenuous financial footing. Recent events have made it worse: it is becoming increasingly difficult for fishermen to repay the interest and principal on a decade-old federal loan, and without Congressional action, they would face an additional $2.4 million ‘recovery fee’ beginning this year,” Huffman said. “I was happy to work with Ranking Member DeFazio and Congresswoman Herrera Beutler to provide relief to fishermen and the small businesses that rely on them.”

“Many fishing businesses from my district in the West Coast groundfish fishery are struggling to pay high interest rates on federal loans and fees on their catch,” said Herrera Beutler. “In order to provide some much needed economic relief to these small businesses, I am pleased to support this bipartisan solution that puts money back into the local fishing industry.  By waiving fees and planned expenditures for one year, we’re taking a fiscally responsible, commonsense step toward helping the economic engine of our coastal communities.”

The West Coast groundfish industry has been rebuilding its stocks for several years. In order to ensure the long term sustainability of the fishery, they have been forced to make hard decisions and cut costs. 

The rebuilding plan included the adoption of a catch share program to prevent overfishing and depleted stocks. To cover the costs associated with this management plan, the federal government began collecting a fee this year.

This bipartisan amendment would suspend the collection of the fee for a year, to allow time for the refinancing of the high-interest loan to go into effect.  It would also allow time for new electronic monitoring programs to go into effect that would lower observer costs for fishermen.

The new fee would come at the same time that the industry continues to pay a very high interest rate for a Federal loan they willingly undertook to buy out excess capacity in the industry and speed the rebuilding process. DeFazio and Huffman are co-sponsors of Herrera Beutler’s REFI Act (HR 2646), bipartisan legislation that would save West Coast fishermen additional millions by refinancing these unfair, expensive federal loans.

The Refi Act was passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee yesterday.