When people are fishing they often have to discard some of the fish they catch for various regulatory and economic reasons. Improperly discarding fish can harm them by causing barotrauma (injuries related to the rapid change in water pressure on their bodies), which can lead to increased mortality for the discarded fish. H.R. 5126 would make it unlawful to fish, commercially or recreationally, for reef fish in the Gulf of Mexico without a device to safely return discarded fish to the water at a depth sufficient for the fish to recover from barotrauma. The requirement would take effect one year after enactment and would lapse five years after enactment.
H.R. 5126 would create new civil penalties for violating that requirement. Any fines collected under the bill would be recorded in the budget as revenues. CBO estimates that enacting the provision would result in an insignificant increase in revenues over the 2020-2030 period because few cases would likely be affected.
The bill also would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Academies of Science to study and report to the Congress on the mortality of discarded fish in the Gulf of Mexico reef fisheries. Following that study, NOAA and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council would be required to create new guidance for collecting information and monitoring the effectiveness of barotrauma reducing devices. Using information on the cost of similar studies, CBO estimates that implementing those requirements would cost less than $500,000 over the 2020-2025 period. Such spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.