U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, II joined colleague Rep. Jo Bonner (R-Ala.) in introducing legislation to extend state water boundaries for Florida and the Gulf Coast region, providing exclusive management of reef fish to Gulf states struggling with shrinking access to an already restricted fishery. 



“With a two-fish-per-day limit and a red snapper season set at 27 days and shrinking, Florida’s fishermen face unacceptably severe challenges that are forcing them off the water,” Southerland said.  “Our legislation – the Gulf Fisheries Fairness Act – casts a life preserver to fishermen and coastal economies struggling to stay afloat amid crippling federal regulations that fail to reflect the successes of a fishery built upon the sacrifices of the Gulf’s commercial and recreational fishermen.  Our legislation stands tall on the 10th Amendment, fighting back against the ever-tightening grip of Washington overregulation.”



The Gulf Fisheries Fairness Act resets state water boundaries for reef fish management in the Gulf to a depth of 20 fathoms (120 feet) or nine nautical miles, which could reach offshore as many as 60 miles.  Florida’s current boundary is set at nine miles.



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Applauds deal to regulate water pollutants



Southerland last week applauded an agreement between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) empowering Florida authorities to regulate nitrogen and phosphorous pollutants in state waters.  Southerland worked with a coalition of state stakeholders last year to introduce legislation requiring the EPA to adopt Florida’s successful state standards for numeric nutrients.



“When I was joined last year on the steps of Florida’s historic Capitol by a bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers, agricultural interests, and business leaders, we spoke with one voice in telling Washington that Florida must come first in revitalizing our streams, lakes, and rivers,” he said, in a news release. “I am pleased that the DEP and EPA reached an agreement that does just that. 



“By getting Washington out of the way, Florida can focus on building upon previous successes in strengthening the health of our waterways,” said Southerland. “After years of litigation, this agreement is a critical victory for Florida and a source of empowerment for states fighting against federal overregulation.”