Peltola Introduces Legislation to Restrict Bottom Trawling, Reduce Bycatch

WASHINGTON – Representative Mary Peltola (AK-AL) has introduced two new bills aimed at restricting bottom trawling and reducing bycatch, advancing her commitment to sustainable fishing practices. The bipartisan Bycatch Reduction and Mitigation Act and the Bottom Trawl Clarity Act seek to support Alaskan fishermen and protect marine ecosystems.

“Since coming to Congress, I’ve worked to make fish and fishing policy the issue of national importance it deserves to be,” Peltola said. “I know fish, I know Alaska, and I know how to work with people in both parties to get stuff done.”

The Bycatch Reduction and Mitigation Act proposes:

  • Authorizing $10 million for five years for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Bycatch Reduction and Engineering Program (BREP).
  • Establishing the Bycatch Mitigation Assistance Fund, managed by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, to help fishermen and vessel owners purchase new gear or technology to reduce bycatch, such as camera systems, lights, and salmon excluders.

View full bill text HERE. Read a one pager on the legislation HERE. The bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Rep. Garrett Graves (R-LA-06) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA-02). 

The Bottom Trawl Clarity Act aims to:

  • Mandate each Fisheries Management Council to define “substantial” versus “limited” bottom contact for bottom trawl gear.
  • Require the designation of Bottom Trawl Zones to limit areas where gear that scrapes the seafloor is permitted.

“I work day in and day out to elevate this issue in DC and bring folks onside,” Peltola continued. “Because of our work at the federal level, many in the fishing industry have already self-selected to use better practices, and we’ve already reduced bycatch by 50%. With these bills, we’re taking the next step.”

Recent reports indicate that under increased pressure led by Peltola, the pollock industry’s chum catch has significantly decreased from an average of 315,000 chums annually over the past decade to 112,000 in 2023.

Support for Peltola’s legislation comes from various industry and environmental leaders:

Linda Behnken, Executive Director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, praised the bills, saying, “These Bills Representative Peltola has introduced let Alaskans know that she is listening and responding to our concerns and will work with fishermen and the North Pacific Council to rebuild stocks, protect habitat, and safeguard our fishing communities. Alaska fishermen are fortunate to have Representative Peltola in our corner, working hard for the long-term.”

Joanna Slaney, Associate Vice President for Political Affairs at the Environmental Defense Fund, noted the broader implications of bycatch, stating, “Consumers want access to fresh U.S. seafood for generations to come, but catching unintended marine life while fishing, called bycatch, can severely reduce populations of the unintended catch. Over time, bycatch leads to lower catch limits and even fishery closures, harming both fishermen and consumers. Rep. Peltola’s Bycatch Reduction and Mitigation Act would promote research and programs that can reduce bycatch, support sustainable fishing businesses and keep fresh seafood on our tables.”

Gabriel Prout, President of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers and a third-generation Alaskan commercial fisherman, emphasized the importance of Peltola’s efforts, saying, “This legislation introduced by Representative Peltola represents her dedication to Alaskans in the fight for sustainable fishing practices. Mitigating bycatch and preserving habitat in the ocean ecosystem is key to making sure fishermen, communities, and families have access to marine resources for future generations of Alaskans to come. Her work to support gear innovation and to protect areas of Alaska’s waters from trawl impacts on ocean habitat and sensitive species is imperative to the survival of Alaska’s fisheries, like the iconic king crab.”

The introduced bills mark a significant step in ensuring the sustainability and resilience of Alaska’s fishing industry and marine ecosystems.