Cotton, Boozman Reintroduce Legislation to Protect Arkansas Catfish Farmers
Contact: Caroline Rabbitt (202) 224-2353
Washington, D.C. - Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and John Boozman (R-Arkansas) yesterday introduced the Safeguard Aquaculture Farmers Act, legislation that would restore the ability of Arkansas catfish farmers, as well as other aquaculture producers, to kill double-crested cormorants that attack their catfish crops during the winter months. The bill was originally introduced during the 114th Congress. It's co-sponsored by Senators Wicker (R-Mississippi), Cochran (R-Mississippi), Shelby (R-Alabama), and Tillis (R-North Carolina).
"Arkansas catfish are an integral part of our state economy. Unfortunately, this critical resource is under attack by double-crested cormorants (DCCs). The devastating impact of DDCs on catfish producers cannot be overstated. In fact, Arkansas catfish farmers expect that much of their harvests won't survive the winter. And bureaucratic roadblocks and legal fights between agencies in Washington, D.C. have left our farmers powerless to protect their catfish. I raised this issue during my meeting with Secretary of the Interior nominee Ryan Zinke and I will work with him and the Trump administration to resolve this problem" said Cotton.
"Aquaculture farming is an important industry in our state. Allowing Arkansas farmers to protect against predators is an important and common sense step in ensuring that this industry continues to survive and thrive," Boozman said.
Background: In May of 2016, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated two depredation orders for double-crested cormorants in response to a lawsuit filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The aquaculture facilities depredation order has been in place since 1998 to help protect aquaculture facilities east of the Mississippi, primarily catfish farms. The judge found that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to update its environmental analysis from the previous renewal of the depredation orders. In addition, FWS has stated that they do not intend to issue individual depredation permits for double-crested cormorants that were not vacated under this court ruling. FWS is currently updating the necessary statistics in order to complete the environmental analysis necessary to restore the orders. Unfortunately, FWS has not completed this necessary update in a timely manner and as a result, the livelihoods of many catfish farmers is in jeopardy.