HR 872


Statement for the Record
Department of the Interior
Prepared for the House Committee on Natural Resources
Subcommittee on Water, Wildlife and Fisheries Legislative Field Hearing On
H.R. 872, the “Federally Integrated Species Health (FISH) Act”

April 11, 2023

The Administration appreciates the opportunity to submit this statement for the record on H.R. 872, the “Federally Integrated Species Health (FISH) Act.”  Executive branch agencies prioritize science and being thorough and transparent as we fulfill our statutory responsibilities.  Multiple agencies work collaboratively with each other, state and local governments, Tribes, and stakeholders to carry out these responsibilities effectively.  A key component of this work is administering and enforcing an array of environmental laws enacted by the Congress, including the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA).  This year marks the 50th anniversary of the ESA, a bedrock conservation law that plays a pivotal role in preventing the extinction of imperiled species, facilitating recovery of fish, wildlife, and plants, and helping to conserve the habitats on which they depend.  The Administration is committed to effective and efficient implementation of the ESA and our responsibilities under it. 

Under the ESA, the Departments of the Interior and Commerce are tasked with joint implementation of the ESA, per President Nixon’s Reorganization Plan Number 4 of 1970.  President Nixon’s plan created the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the Department of Commerce, by transferring existing authorities of other agencies to the newly formed NOAA.  The reorganization, which Congress endorsed, included transfer of the then-existing authorities of the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Commercial Fisheries and marine sport fish program of the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife with subsequent elimination of those bureaus and programs.  Following implementation of the reorganization plan, the ESA provides authority to the Department of Commerce to manage all federally listed fish species that live or spend the majority of their lives in marine waters, including most anadromous fish.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages any remaining federally listed fish species.

H.R. 872, the FISH Act, would transfer all functions related to management of federally listed anadromous and catadromous species from the Department of Commerce to the Department of the Interior. Anadromous fish are those that spend most of their lives in marine waters but spawn upstream in fresh or estuarine waters.  These include species of salmon, smelt, and sturgeon. Currently, an estimated 43 anadromous fish species or populations are federally listed under National Marine Fisheries Service jurisdiction. Catadromous fish are those that spend most of their lives in fresh or estuarine water but spawn in the ocean. These primarily include eels.  Catadromous fish are currently under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior, so H.R. 872 would not affect management responsibility for those species. Currently, there are no federally listed catadromous fish species.

The Administration is not seeking a reorganization of responsibilities under the ESA.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service collaborate closely on implementing the ESA, and each agency brings valuable experience and expertise to bear in management of different types of fish species.  The Department of the Interior looks forward to working within the Administration and with the Committee to ensure that federally listed fish species are managed as effectively, responsibly, and efficiently as possible under the ESA.

Was this page helpful?

Please provide a comment