WASHINGTON D.C. – Representative Rick Crawford (AR-01), along with Representatives Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Ralph Abraham (LA-05), and Robert Aderholt (AL-04), have introduced H.R. 3041, the Aquaculture Risk Reduction Act, to protect fish farmers from unreasonable fines and criminal prosecution after they commit minor or accidental Lacey Act infractions.
Specifically, the bill amends the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981 to provide a de minimus exemption for commercial shipments of fish unless the inclusion of a state regulated species or injurious or endangered species is done so knowingly or intentionally.
Following the announcement, Representative Rick Crawford released the following statement:
“Arkansas fish farmers should not live in fear of criminal charges or six-figure fines if they accidentally transport an unlisted species after they have taken all the necessary precautions. Unless the producer has knowingly included an injurious or endangered species in his shipment, he shouldn’t be subject to such heavy-handed penalties that make the aquaculture business, which is a significant part of rural Arkansas’ economy, even more risky. The Aquaculture Risk Reduction Act makes a technical change to the Lacey Act that reduces the threat of federal criminal prosecution for minor violations while still preserving the original intent of the law.”
Representative Westerman joined Crawford in voicing his support:
“I am proud to join my colleague, Congressman Rick Crawford, in the introduction of the Aquaculture Risk Reduction Act. This piece of legislation would protect aquaculture farmers from federal felony charges due to the flagrant misuse of the Lacey Act. Under current law, even an accidental, unintentional, and minor violation of the Lacey Act could cost aquaculture farmers a business that they have worked a lifetime to build. It is imperative that we return this law to a common sense approach that protects against invasive species yet refrains from the unnecessary hindering of our nation’s aquaculture farmers.”
Representative Aderholt said:
“I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Aquaculture Risk Reduction Act. Life-long federal bureaucrats have used the Lacey Act to target farmers unfairly and arbitrarily. This legislation will ensure that the Lacey Act is used as it was originally intended.”
Representative Abraham, M.D.:
“No one should lose his small business over something like this. I’m proud to work alongside my colleagues to help keep the aquaculture tradition alive in the South.”
Jim Parsons, the President of the National Aquaculture Association, said the legislation represented a commonsense update:
“Fish, shellfish, and aquatic plant farmers work very hard to rear, pack, and ship only those live animals or plants that their customers expect to be delivered. All aquatic farmers or businesses that transport live animals or plants are at-risk for accidental hitchhikers. This legislation represents a commonsense update to the Lacey Act that is very much welcomed and appreciated by the aquaculture community.”
Passed in the year 1900, the Lacey Act is a well-intentioned law, but it is in great need of modernizing to accommodate 21st century agriculture. Today, the Lacey Act regulates the import of any species protected by international or domestic law and prevents the spread of invasive, or non-native, species.
When amendments were added to the Lacey Act in 1969, the bill then allowed for accidental violations to be prosecuted as a felony. Producers, even after taking every precautionary step, were being charged with violating the Lacey Act and given six-digit fines or jail time. This drove producers from the market and also punished many within the industry.
When the Lacey Act was written, it was designed to regulate only “wild animals.” The aquaculture industry itself was also practically non-existent. 1981 amendments to the Lacey Act included a provision that broadened its application to all “wild” animals, including those having been “bred, hatched, or born in captivity” (16 USC 3371(a)). That added provision means that our domesticated fish are now regulated as if they were taken from the wild.
H.R. 3041 would amend parts of the Lacey Act to reduce producer liability after committing minor infractions without changing the original intent of the underlying law.