U.S. senators try again to kill vessel discharge regs

Fishing boats are moored in icy water at the small boat harbor on April 1, 2004 in Valdez, Alaska. (David McNew/Getty Images)
Fishing boats are moored in icy water at the small boat harbor on April 1, 2004 in Valdez, Alaska. (David McNew/Getty Images)
Alaska fishermen have three years before the EPA is supposed to begin regulating deck wash, bilge water and other liquids discharged from small vessels.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski this week introduced a bill to permanently block the regulation for commercial vessels under 79 feet. Senate co-sponsors include Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, and California Democrat Barbara Boxer.

The threat of the looming discharge regulation frustrates owners of commercial boats from Alaska to Florida. Robert Zales, president of the National Association of Charter Boat Operators, let his exasperation show in testimony at a recent U.S. Senate hearing.

“How, how do I — I can’t even give you an answer to that question on how much rain runs off my deck on a particular day. It’s rainwater that would’ve hit the water if it hadn’t hit my boat, so what is the purpose?” fumed Zales, who runs a fishing charter business in Panama City.

Murkowski and Boxer nearly won a permanent exemption for small boats last year. But owners of bigger vessels objected, saying the exemption should cover their ballast water discharge, too. Boxer says ballast water poses more danger to marine ecosystems because it can carry invasive species from port to port.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Is a fishing boom in the Arctic a sure thing?, Eye on the Arctic

Finland:  Finland: Seals gobble half a million fish – commercial fisheries report almost 500K in losses, Yle New

Norway: Norway-Russia fishery expedition finds abundance of cod, decline in other species, Barents Observer

Sweden:  Record numbers for Swedish wild salmon, Radio Sweden

United States: Unusual species in Alaska waters indicate parts of Pacific warming dramatically, Alaska Dispatch

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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