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House committee offers tight NOAA budget for 2015

Federal help for fishermen may get reduced next year. The House Appropriations Committee approved a Commerce, Justice, Science & Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015 (H.R. 4660) that would slightly increase the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discretionary funds budget. But the bill would keep it below what the Obama Administration had requested. And it would cut the budget for fishing and related programs.

The Republican-dominated committee reported a bill that would give NOAA's discretionary accounts $5.32512 billion, an increase of only $10.514 million, not enough to keep up with inflation. The administration had requested an increase of $163.615 million.

The committee report became available online on the congressional website on Saturday, May 17, 2014. The bill has been placed on the House Union Calendar so the House can vote on it after it returns from recess. The Senate has not yet written a corresponding appropriations bill.

Of the NOAA budget, $3.22048 billion would go toward its coastal, fisheries, marine, weather, satellite and related programs. The amount includes funding transferred from other funds and amounts to $148.513 million less than what the administration asked for. The National Marine Fisheries Service would get $790.2 million.

The committee report also asks NOAA to provide it with quarterly reports on its stock assessment efforts starting next winter. The reports must describe NOAA's methods for determining stock assessments, the costs of each survey and how the agency incorporates independent data. The committee also ordered NOAA to provide within 90 days of the enactment of the bill a report on how it determines fishing quotas, especially when spikes occur in fishing. The emphasis would be on reported spikes in Atlantic sea bass fishing in 2013.

The bill also would earmark $12 million for cooperative fisheries research. The committee asks NOAA for another report on how it spent its cooperative research funds over the last two years and the uses of the research. The committee criticized NOAA for not using the research fast enough in its stock assessments.

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