On 14 November, the US Senate passed the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA) as part of the USCG Reauthorization Act with a vote of 94 to 6, paving the way for the harmonization of state and federal regulations for vessel ballast water discharges in the United States.
The VIDA Bill includes legislative language that amends the USCG regulations to allow for the use of reproductive methods by explicitly expanding the definition of 'living' to ensure that organisms that cannot reproduce (nonviable) are not considered to be living. This means that organisms which cannot reproduce are as good as dead for the purposes of the regulation.
In a new development, USCG's new bill now removes all vessels below 79 feet from the EPA incidental discharge regulations about ballast water and deck washing. In addition, it permanently exempts all fishing vessels from the EPA discharge requirements.
The EPA regards ballast water and deck water discharge, and was applied in 2008, but fishing vessels had a temporary exemption. This exemption ended this year, and vessel owners were worried because without a solution, activities such as washing a deck after gutting fish could led to an EPA fine.
Moreover, the bill increased the size of new vessels that must be maintained to class standards, and included regional and fishery specific alternative safety compliance programs.
Commenting on the bill, Chris Brown, President of the Seafood Harvesters of America, stated:
We now have regulatory certainty for our businesses instead of operating under stopgap exemptions to these regulations