Last week the Southern Shrimp Alliance reported that both the House and Senate had finally passed legislation (S. 140) to make permanent a temporary legislative exemption for shrimp fishing vessels from an extremely onerous and unnecessary EPA Vessel Incidental Discharge Permit requirement. (Find more background on the permit here.)
SSA is very happy to report that this legislation was sent to the President and has now been signed into law.
SSA Executive Director John Williams commented: “It’s been a long and difficult road but the alternative would have been an absolute disaster for the shrimp trawl fishery and for all commercial fishing fleets nationwide. I’m proud to say that SSA stepped up to play a major leadership role in this nationwide effort to secure the first temporary legislative exemption in 2008, and to extend that exemption in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2017.”
For 32 years following the enactment of the Clean Water Act, the EPA had concluded that discharges incidental to the normal operation of a fishing vessel should not be covered by the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) as such discharges were addressed by other statutes. But a 2005 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ultimately forced the agency to develop regulations and a permitting system for 27 incidental discharges on over 80,000 commercial fishing vessels. Those discharges included those as routine, harmless and impossible to regulate as deckwash, fish hold effluent and grey water.
Indeed, as stated in its 2010 Report to Congress on a field study in which SSA shrimp vessels participated: “EPA determined that the incidental discharges from study vessels to a relatively large water body are not likely to solely cause an exceedance of any NRWQC.” (NRWQA = National Recommended Water Quality Criteria under the Clean Water Act). https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OW-2011-0150-0003
According to Williams: “This permit requirement should never have existed. It was lawsuit driven by environmental groups in a California Court a long time ago. SSA has been working ever since with Congress and other fishing groups across the Nation to put a temporary stop to it. I have to say, after working to prevent this disaster for more than a decade, it feels pretty good to finally put this one to bed, permanently.”