(CNSNews.com) –The $410-billion omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal 2009 includes two very "fishy" pieces of pork.
The bill, which includes nearly 9,300 earmarks, gives $1.5 million to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to mark fish and another $1.3 million to purchase special gear designed to reduce “bycatch.”
The New England Aquarium defines bycatch as “the accidental capture of untargeted species by fishermen” and designates it as one of "the greatest threats facing many endangered marine animals, including sea turtles and whales.”
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), meanwhile, sponsored the $1.5 million earmark to mark fish in the Great Lakes through "The Great Lakes Fishery Mass Marking Initiative."
The initiative aims at identifying stocked fish, which includes salmon and trout, in order for fisherman to be able to distinguish them from wild fish.
“The practice of fish marking not only protects endangered fish, but protects any creature that depends on the Great Lakes -- including people like you and me,” said Dingell’s spokesman, Adam Benson.
“An interruption to the ecosystem could have serious repercussions, and this is one more step to protect all of us from problems that would be difficult to reverse,” he added.
Mark Gadon, spokesperson for the Great Lakes Fishery, told CNSNews.com that “funds will be used for hatchery equipment.”
“What is being done in the course of a few years is the capitalization of mass marking efforts and that involves equipment purchases,” added Gadon.
The hatchery equipment is used to sort, clip, tag, and inventory fish.
The Great Lakes Fishery says that marking fish will help resource managers determine “the abundance of wild produced fish” and what kind of fish anglers like to catch.
The other earmark aimed at curbing “bycatch” is an additional $1.3 million in allocations for the New England Aquarium to research "environmental gear technologies to reduce bycatch.”
The aquarium’s Consortium for Wildlife Bycatch Reduction, which is already studying bycatch reduction, is comprised of experts in marine biology, engineering, and fishing.
Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and former Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) requested the $1.3 million earmark for the aquarium.
None of the lawmakers would respond to questions from CNSNews.com about why taxpayers should subsidize the program. Rep. Lynch’s office said it might respond in the future.
When combined with the early 2009 spending bills ($16.1 billion spent on 2,627 earmarks), the 2009 omnibus bill total comes to 11,914 earmarks at a cost of $28.9 billion.
“This represents the second most earmarks -- and the second highest cost -- in American history,” The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, reported.