Rep. Zeldin’s Bill for Long Island Fishermen Passes House Natural Resources Committee
Washington, DC – On Wednesday, March 15, 2016, Congressman Zeldin’s EEZ Transit Zone Clarification Act (HR 3070) unanimously passed the House Natural Resources Committee with bipartisan support. The Congressman’s bill would clarify federal laws governing the management of the striped bass fishery in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) between Montauk, New York, and Block Island, Rhode Island, allowing local control over the fishery.
Between New York State waters, which end three miles off of Montauk Point, New York, and the Rhode Island boundary, which begins three miles off of Block Island, there is a small area of federally controlled water that is considered part of the EEZ. The EEZ, which extends up to 200 miles from the coast, are waters patrolled by the Coast Guard, where the United States has exclusive jurisdiction over fisheries and other natural resources. Striped bass fishing has been banned in the EEZ since 1990. Congressman Zeldin’s EEZ Transit Zone Clarification Act would permit striped bass fishing in these waters and allow for local regulations to manage this important fishery.
This bill passage out of committee comes after the House Natural Resources Committee hosted a hearing on the bill in Congress on Tuesday, February 2, 2016. Congressman Zeldin also recently co-hosted a House Natural Resources Committee field hearing in Riverhead, NY, with Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT). The hearing, which was titled, “Restoring Atlantic Fisheries and Protecting the Regional Seafood Economy,” was held on December 7, 2015 to discuss important local fishing issues. Congressman Zeldin’s EEZ Transit Zone Clarification Act was discussed and Chairman Bishop was able to hear first-hand the concerns of those on Long Island who rely upon fishing as an occupation and way of life.
Congressman Zeldin said, “One of the most pressing issues faced by Long Island fishermen is the urgent need to clarify the federal regulations regarding striped bass fishing in the small area of federally controlled waters between Montauk Point and Block Island, which is why I am proud to have secured the passage of this bill out of committee. Long Island striped bass fishermen have lost 60% of their traditional fishing grounds due to federal restrictions that this bill intends to reform. Fishermen should be able to legally fish for striped bass in this limited area, which they currently can in adjacent state waters. The EEZ Transit Zone Clarification Act will provide regulatory relief and more certainty to our region’s fishermen, while restoring local control to a critical fishery that must be properly managed and preserved for future generations. H.R. 3070 is common sense legislation that only impacts striped bass. It offers a simple local solution to a unique local issue. The geography of our region means that making the 15 mile journey by boat from Montauk Point to Block Island requires passing through a small strip of waters considered to be part of the EEZ. For our region’s fishermen, this shift in jurisdiction can mean the difference between a nice day on the water and committing a federal offense. The dedicated men and women who fish in these waters, and the tens of thousands of Long Islanders who depend upon the coastal economy of the East End deserve no less than the common sense reform promoted by this proposal. I look forward to this bill passing the House.”
“The senseless boundaries between state and federal waters around the Block Island Sound have created confusion for local fishermen,“ Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said. “I thank Congressman Zeldin for his leadership on this bill. He invited the Committee to his district to hear firsthand the impacts of the regulatory confusion for local fishermen. Ultimately, Congressman Zeldin improved upon prior efforts and worked with both sides of the aisle to advance it through the Committee without objection.”
The North Fork Captain’s Association said, “We believe the opening of the transition zones being considered would have a very positive outcome. By expanding the areas to fish, it would give more room for boats to spread out and cause fewer accidents. A day at sea should not be like a trip to a mall parking lot! Public safety should always be considered first.”
The Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) said, “RFA is proud to support this important legislation for our members who fish for striped bass in these waters. The legislation will have a positive effect for fishermen and our related marine businesses when stripers are in that area while having no negative conservation effect on striped bass stocks. A big thanks to Lee Zeldin for working out this complex issue that his predecessor couldn't fix.”
The Montauk Boatmen & Captains Association (MBCA) said, "The Montauk Boatmen and Captains Association, and all fishermen on Long Island and throughout New York would like to thank Representative Lee Zeldin for his strong support. No other states have this geographic anomaly of the New York-Block Island-Rhode Island transit zone; it exists only in this area because of the extended distance between Montauk Point and Block Island. We have been trying for many years to correct this problem with no success. We appreciated the Congressman’s efforts to bring Chairman Bishop (R-UT) and other influential members to Riverhead in December for a field hearing to hear our concerns firsthand, and we now applaud them for passing HR 3070 out of the committee on a bipartisan basis. The impact of sport fishing on Long Island is very important to our economy, especially in Montauk. We greatly appreciate Congressman Zeldin’s commitment on this issue and willingness to fight for Long Island fishermen.”
The Connecticut Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) said, “The Connecticut RFA strongly endorses H.R. 3070. Congressman Zeldin’s bill eliminates a unique issue that places federal waters inside an area that is bounded by state waters. The current regulatory scenario can result in anglers being in violation of the law by the simple act of transiting these waters when returning from a fishing trip while in possession of striped bass, including recreational fishing boats from Connecticut. Allowing fishing for striped bass and possession of striped bass in this area eliminates a complex issue and allows for local control. The act does not create conflict with the Connecticut based commercial fishing fleet who can still fish these waters with a federal permit.”