Acting Ranking member of USDA Appropriations Subcommittee Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. (MD-01), has issued the following statement on language included in the House USDA, Rural Development and Related Agencies Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations Bill. This language addresses the invasive blue catfish species in the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Under the language, included at the request of Ranking Member Harris, the USDA must create a system of providing waivers from USDA inspection requirements to invasive blue catfish processors that are in compliance with less burdensome FDA regulations for the safe processing of fish. The language will assist both processors and anglers in bringing this fish to market and facilitate reduction of the invasive blue catfish populations in the Bay in alignment with the State of Maryland’s Bay conservation strategies.
“Blue catfish are an invasive species which feed on many species native to our Bay, including blue crabs. As our watermen have demonstrated time and time again, one of the most formidable tools we have at our disposal in reducing the blue catfish population is to fish them out of the Bay and bring them to market. Because of burdensome USDA inspection procedures, it has become increasingly difficult for watermen to do just that. New language included at my request in the Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations Bill will require the blue catfish inspection process to be moved from USDA to a less burdensome but just as safe regime under the FDA. In doing this, we are eliminating unnecessary regulation and allowing easier commercial catch of blue catfish which would help control the growing population of this harmful species.”