Florida Senators introduce legislation to expedite fishery disaster relief

by | May 3, 2024

Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio have introduced the FISHES Act to Congress, designed to expedite the distribution of federal disaster relief to fisheries by imposing a 30-day approval deadline for disaster relief.

Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio have introduced the Fishery Improvement to Streamline Untimely Regulatory Hurdles post Emergency Situation Act (FISHES Act) to Congress, aiming to streamline the process for distributing federal disaster relief to fisheries.

The bipartisan bill, also co-sponsored by Alaska’s Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, mandates a 30-day decision period for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to approve or reject state plans for disaster relief spending.

“When disaster strikes, families and small businesses can’t be left wondering whether the federal government is going to show up. Floridians know that better than anyone,” Scott said. “The federal government must step up and get folks the help they need as fast as possible as they work to get back on their feet. As we head into hurricane season, now is the time to prepare and I ask Congress to pass this legislation as soon as possible to ensure our fishing industry in Florida and across the country have a reliable partner in Washington.”

Rubio further highlighted the bill’s potential to reduce bureaucratic obstacles, noting that the measure intends to cut red tape so that Florida businesses can receive disaster relief in a swift fashion following a federal disaster.

“Arbitrary bureaucratic delays to Congressionally appropriated fishery disasters prevents businesses from getting back on their feet,” the state’s senior Senato said in a prepared statement. “This bill will cut red tape so that these Florida businesses can receive disaster relief in a reasonable and prompt manner after a federal disaster, like a hurricane.”

In conjunction with the Senate bill, Florida Congressman Rep. Byron Donalds introduced a companion bill in August to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Saltwater fishing has a significant economic impact on Florida, earning the state the title of “Fishing Capital of the World.” In the fiscal year 2019-20, the state sold 1.5 million recreational saltwater licenses, generating $37.8 million in total sales. The economic impact of saltwater recreational fishing alone is $9.2 billion, though when combined, saltwater and freshwater recreational fishing have an economic impact of $13.8 billion, according to state data.

Moreover, saltwater recreational fishing supports 88,501 jobs in Florida, while both saltwater and freshwater fishing support 120,000 jobs in total. In 2019 and 2020, Florida’s commercial fisheries generated $3.2 billion in income and supported 76,700 jobs, per the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.


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