Opening Statement: Ranking Member McClintock - Water, Oceans and Wildlife Subcommittee
Opening Statement by Ranking Member Tom McClintock
House Natural Resources Committee
Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife
May 8, 2019
The subcommittee meets today to consider nine bills dealing with various aspects of ocean resource management.
H.R. 417 by Mr. Soto establishes measures to control the epidemic of invasive lionfish in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. The invasive nature of the lionfish and the damage it has done to the habitats into which it has been introduced is well documented, although the question arises if this legislation isn’t closing the barn door after the wolves have entered.
H.R. 1218 by Mr. Young reestablishes an advisory committee of stakeholders to help direct federal grants to areas and initiatives that are best suited to promote the American seafood industry, funded by duties on seafood imported into the United States. While we need to exercise caution whenever creating advisory groups, this legislation should get Washington D.C. out of the way and allow for a more effective program directed by the people that know best.
H.R. 1314, also by Mr. Young, reauthorizes the Integrated Ocean Observation System. This system provides data to coastal communities and local fishermen on weather and ocean conditions. This system is critical to early detection of hurricanes and other natural disasters. Unfortunately, this legislation maintains an open, limitless authorization of funds for this program and should be amended to set specific appropriations limits, as Senate versions of the measure have done.
H.R. 1023, by Mr. Quigley, creates a new federal “fishery monitoring” program in the Great Lakes Basin. It begs the question of why it doesn’t employ either the National Marine Fisheries Service or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conduct these fishery studies. Instead, it tasks an agency that has little experience in fisheries science and management: the U.S. Geological Survey. This is especially baffling as NOAA already receives $28 million for ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes research, and another $2.9 million for interjurisdictional fisheries grants which can be used for Great Lakes management and science.
H.R. 1240, also by Mr. Young, establishes a federal grant program to support education, training and mentoring of young fishermen. It raises two concerns I hope will be addressed. First, what is to assure these funds go to promote the young fishermen that they are meant for and not to third-party groups and NGOs that often try to put fishermen out of business. Second, is it wise to predicate funding for any program on the NOAA’s Asset Forfeiture program, which sets up a perverse incentive for the agency to seize private property without due process of law.
H.R. 1979 by Mr. Lieu, adopts a blanket prohibition against the use of driftnets in federal waters. It bypasses the existing council process that we heard just last week works so well. As we learned at that hearing, American fisheries populations are already carefully monitored and regulated, and if anything are currently under-utilized. As we will hear today, this legislation does nothing to improve fisheries management, but instead does great harm in two respects: it takes away the earnings of American fishermen and raises the price of seafood for every American family.
H.R. 2189 by Mr. Ruppersberger authorizes $4 million annually for an already existing federal program that has been operating successfully within existing funds since 2007.
H.R. 2405 by Chairman Huffman reauthorizes NOAA’s Sea Grant Program by more than $10 million than the currently appropriated levels and increases that authorization by nearly five percent annually after that. This program is one that the President rightfully sought to eliminate in his budget to free up funding for NOAA to complete its core functions.
And finally, H.R. 2406 by Mr. Case would dramatically expand NOAA’s Commissioned Officer Corps. This is a pretend navy given temporary uniformed status during World War II. A long list of government reform initiatives, including Al Gore’s “Re-inventing Government” initiative in 1996 have sought to eliminate it, but to no avail. As a result, we now have a program with a growing retirement fund crisis, a culture of sexual harassment and inappropriate personnel management, 70 years of mission creep and growing allegations of financial mismanagement, inability to account for costs, and other issues.
Mr. Chairman, the prime function of authorizing committees is to conduct oversight over the federal agencies and programs under their jurisdictions. Unfortunately, most of the bills in front of us today create new programs without justification or rubber stamp programs rampant with problems. We owe it to the American public to do better.