U.S. lawmakers from numerous coastal states have introduced legislation in the capital to speed up the process of distributing fishery disaster payments to affected fishermen and processors. The Fishery Improvement to Streamline Untimely Regulatory Hurdles Post Emergency Situation Act (FISHES Act), known as S. 4262, would require the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve or deny a state’s spending plan for fishery disasters within 30 days, among other proposed fixes.

U.S. Senator Rick Scott introduced the bill on May 2, which was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators including Marco Rubio, Dan Sullivan, and Lisa Murkowski. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, demonstrating the shared responsibility and unity in addressing this issue.

Senator Scott shared, “When disaster strikes, families and small businesses can’t be left wondering whether the federal government is going to show up. Floridians know that better than anyone. The federal government must step up and get folks the help they need as fast as possible as they work to get back on their feet. As we head into hurricane season, now is the time to prepare and I ask Congress to pass this legislation as soon as possible to ensure our fishing industry in Florida and across the country have a reliable partner in Washington.”

According to Undercurrent News, companion legislation, HR 5103, was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in August 2023. It was presented by Byron Donalds, a Florida Republican, and Mary Peltola, a Democrat from Alaska. HR 5103 has 25 bipartisan cosponsors and was the subject of a House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing on Water, Wildlife, and Fisheries in October.

In a joint press release, Scott, Rubio, Sullivan, Murkowski, Donalds, and Peltola hailed the group effort. Senator Sullivan wrote, “Alaska’s fishing industry has been through a very difficult few years, heightened by an unprecedented number of fishery disasters affecting all parts of our state. While relief dollars have been crucial to providing relief to our fishermen, in most instances, the relief has taken far too long to get approved and reach impacted Alaskans.

The FISHES Act will seek to improve the federal regulatory processes associated with fishery disaster relief funding within the OMB and cut red tape by enacting a 30-day decision requirement for the OMB to deny/approve the State’s spending plan. This will ultimately expedite the federal fishery disaster relief funding process overall.

“Senator Scott and I are introducing legislation that will enact timelines on the executive branch’s approval process so that our fishing communities don’t have to wait years to see the federal relief that they are due and can continue to responsibly harvest the freshest, most sustainable seafood in the world,” wrote Senator Sullivan.

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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