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Cotton Introduces Legislation to Protect Arkansas Catfish Farmers

Washington, D.C. – Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) yesterday [December 5, 2016] 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.

“There are few crops more closely associated with Arkansas than catfish. Arkansas catfish farmers are legendary—and their contribution to our state economy cannot be overstated. Regrettably, double-crested cormorants (DCCs) who have begun to migrate south are poised to wreak havoc on Arkansas catfish stocks. The detrimental economic impact of DDCs on catfish producers cannot be overstated; many producers 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. This legislation would restore farmer’s rights to kill any double-crested cormorants that attack their catfish crop during the winter months,” said Cotton.

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.

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