In early 2008, a District Court decision revoked a longstanding exemption for commercial and recreational vessels from a requirement to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit under the Clean Water Act.

The SSA participated in the coordinated effort to secure commercial vessel exemptions that were strongly opposed by the environmental community and resisted by the recreational boating community. Congress restored an exemption from the federal and state permitting requirements under the Clean Water Act for the U.S. shrimp industry—an act once thought to be politically impossible.

The legislation provides a 2-year moratorium on permits for all commercial fishing vessels of any size and for all other commercial vessels of 79 ft or less. It also requires the EPA, working with the Coast Guard, to conduct a 15-month study to evaluate the impacts of various discharges from vessels and report their findings to Congress for the purposes of making final decisions on vessel discharge permit requirements. The SSA arranged for SSA member vessels to participate in this critical study. The SSA is currently working with Congress and other fishing organizations around the country on legislation to extend the exemption from the permitting requirement for fishing vessels through the end of 2013.