Washington, DC – Today, an amendment to reform the use of monies in the Asset Forfeiture Fund (AFF), which was submitted by Massachusetts Reps. Bill Keating (MA-09), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), and Seth Moulton (MA-06), passed the US House of Representatives.  The amendment is now included in H.R. 1335, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act.

The amendment would ensure that monies in the AFF are used for:

1)     fishery research and stock assessments,

2)     at-sea and shore-side monitoring,

3)     conservation gear engineering,

4)     fishery impact statements, and

5)     other priorities established by the Regional Fishery Management Councils in order to rebuild or maintain sustainable fisheries, ensure healthy ecosystems, and maintain fishing communities.

“In 2010, the Department of Commerce Inspector General audited the AFF and determined that there had been misuse, waste, and abuse in the distribution of monies – many times often going to activities unrelated to the fishing industry,” said Rep. Keating.  “NOAA responded by setting limits as to how the funds in the AFF can be used.  We need more than direction on how the money can’t be spent.  We need parameters on how the money should be spent.  This is a simple, straightforward amendment that provides more science and resources to an industry that desperately needs it.  There is no such thing as ‘too many’ hard facts or data, and the ability to use them to better inform fisheries management.”

“We cannot allow the money in the NOAA’s Asset Forfeiture Fund to be wasted when fishermen stand to benefit from targeted scientific research and resources dedicated to the fishing industry,” said Rep. Lynch. “I am proud to join Representatives Keating and Moulton on this important amendment that will reduce government waste and improve fisheries management in Massachusetts and across the country.”

“Fishermen and environmentalists want the same thing: healthy and sustainable fisheries,” said Rep. Moulton. “This amendment will help achieve that objective through meaningful and targeted uses of NOAA’s Asset Forfeiture Fund. I’m proud to partner with Representatives Lynch and Keating on our shared commitment to protect and enhance our Commonwealth’s fishing community."

Rep. Keating’s first piece of original legislation as a Member of Congress was H.R. 1013, the Strengthen Fisheries Management in New England Act, which required that penalties collected from New England fishermen and invested in NOAA’s Asset Forfeiture Fund be used to improve the management of New England fisheries.  H.R. 1013 specifically directed the US Secretary of Commerce to provide the New England Fishery Management Council with the AFF funds that have been collected from New England fishermen for direct use toward improving the research and management of New England’s fisheries.