Environmental Policy News

New Legislation Introduced to Support Commercial Fishermen and Sustainable Fisheries

US Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced legislation to modernize outdated regulations governing commercial fishing along the Atlantic Coast.

Restrictions on the species and number of fish that can be caught in Atlantic waters haven’t been updated in decades, even as fish locations have changed dramatically in response to warming ocean temperatures and climate change. As a result, commercial fishermen are forced to travel significant distances to access these fish populations and are often forced to throw their landings back into the ocean, resulting in high mortality rates. The Supporting Healthy Interstate Fisheries in Transition (SHIFT) Act would require that the Department of Commerce consider the changing geographic ranges of fish populations as it oversees federal fishery management plans and quota allocations for Atlantic states.

“This legislation will help raise the tide for fishing in Connecticut and beyond, boosting the blue economy,” said Blumenthal. “Climate change has drastically altered our oceans, forcing some fishermen to travel hundreds of miles to reach their quotas or to toss valuable fish overboard. The SHIFT Act will ensure that evolving climate conditions are prioritized in fishery management, helping local fishermen, the economy, and fish populations.”

“As ocean temperatures keep getting warmer, fish up and down the coast are migrating north. This makes business a lot harder for Connecticut fishermen. We should be doing everything possible to help fishermen adapt to our changing climate, and this legislation would update totally outdated policies that hurt our state,” said Murphy.

The SHIFT Act would require the Secretary of Commerce and encourage the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to account for the impact of climate change on the current distribution of fish populations when deciding fishing quota allocations. The SHIFT Act also amends the existing Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, the primary law governing marine fisheries management in US federal waters, to improve upon other areas of fishery operations, including sustainability. Finally, the legislation calls for the regular review of fisheries, ensuring their resilience for years to come.

The SHIFT Act is endorsed by a number of organizations, including Oceana, Pew Charitable Trusts, Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, Earthjustice, Ocean Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Audubon Society, and American Saltwater Guides Association.

The text of the legislation can be found here.

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