December 24, 2020

Cassidy Announces Passage of his DESCEND Act, Legislation Heads to President Trump’s Desk

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) today announced the Senate unanimously passed the House version of his Direct Enhancement of Snapper Conservation and the Economy through Novel Devices (DESCEND) Act to improve the health of reef fish populations in the Gulf of Mexico. The legislation now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature.

“Fishing in the Gulf is something folks have enjoyed for decades. With passage of the DESCEND Act, Congress continues to take conservation-focused steps toward better sustainability of our fisheries which ultimately lead to more opportunities for folks to get out on the water. Louisiana’s recreational and commercial fishermen can be assured that we will maintain healthy populations of our reef fish that are so vital to our regional economy,” said Dr. Cassidy.

Senator Cassidy introduced companion DESCEND Act legislation in the Senate with Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November 2019.

The DESCEND Act requires fishermen to have descending devices aboard their vessels to help deep water fish recover after being released. The requirement lasts for five years and incorporates a study to examine the overall impacts of descending devices.

Reef fish, such as red snapper, caught and rapidly brought to the surface from deep water can suffer from barotrauma, a condition that kills fish because they cannot readjust to deep water upon release. Venting tools and descending devices reduce barotrauma and save fish harvested for both recreational and commercial uses. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council are preparing to launch an eight-year, $30 million project to further reduce barotrauma. However, current regulations prevent the Council from both requiring fishermen to use venting tools or descending devices to return fish to the ocean and also federal dollars to study the issue. 

The DESCEND Act allows the study to remain in place even after new regulations are implemented to comply with the legislation.

Supporting organizations include:

  • Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
  • American Sportfishing Association
  • Center for Sportfishing Policy
  • Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
  • National Marine Manufacturers Association
  • Coastal Conservation Association. 

The bill was also supported by the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission which is comprised of members representing the governors, state legislatures and state fish and wildlife agencies for the five Gulf States. The Commission sent a letter to Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) in support of the DESCEND Act and is attached here.