Reps. Herrera Beutler, Kilmer Introduce Legislation to Extend Vital Protection of Fishing Boats, Small Vessels from Overly-Broad Discharge Rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) and Derek Kilmer (WA-06) introduced legislation yesterday to extend an exemption for fishing boats and small vessels from EPA incidental discharge regulations so they can continue to operate without facing financial costs and delays.

Their bill, Fishing and Small Vessel Relief Act, extends the current exemption by three years, relieving small boats under 79 feet from EPA’s vessel incidental discharge permitting requirements. This protection has long-standing bipartisan support, and Sen. Maria Cantwell has introduced a companion bill in the U.S. Senate.

Science has shown that incidental discharge from small fishing boats and other undersized vessels – those under 79 feet – do not present significant environmental risks. These boats have been given an exemption from EPA-mandated vessel incidental discharge permitting requirements. Unfortunately, that exemption is set to expire on December 18, which would leave fishermen and small vessels at sudden risk of being in violation of a federal rule from which they've long been exempted. 

“Fishermen, shellfish growers and small vessel operators are key economic contributors to our Pacific County communities; their livelihoods represent thousands of paychecks,” Herrera Beutler said. “These requirements were only ever meant for larger vessels, but if Congress doesn't act soon, the small boats will take a serious hit. I'm hopeful this bipartisan solution will be included in any end-of-year legislation to give our fishing businesses relief and certainty.”

“This is a commonsense solution to shield our small business owners from a regulation that was not intended to target them,” Kilmer said. “Congress should act now to fix the problem so that our fishermen and shellfish growers have the certainty they need to keep their operations afloat.”

Their bill would provide continued relief to all vessels under 79 feet including commercial fishing boats, tugboats, tour boats, research boats, towboats, and offshore supply boats.