Four international treaties important to fishery conservation efforts, including one to curb pirate fishing harmful to fishermen around the world, were approved in early April, in a bipartisan effort in the US Senate.
The next step would be implementing language to put the treaty provisions into law and authorize appropriations, a Senate aide said.
The treaties include the agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which cracks down on imports of illegally-caught fish by restricting access to ports used to import seafood and strengthening inspections. A second measure, the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North Pacific Ocean, establishes a regional fishery management organization in the North Pacific to limit fishing on seamounts in international waters, which provide important habitat for fish stocks.
Passage of the measures marked a bipartisan victory for Senators Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Roger Wicker, R-MS, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, all members of the Senate Oceans Caucus, who had called for passage of these treaties for months.
Begich, who chairs the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard, compared illegal fishing activities to piracy.
“I call it like I see it and this is piracy, plain and simple,” Begich said. “These thieves operate on the high seas, ignore catch limits and damage habitats. They undercut legitimate fishermen who play by the rules.
“Alaska crab fishermen estimate they alone have lost half a billion dollars to illegal crab imports,” Begich said.
The Port State Measures Agreement and the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North Pacific Ocean will protect Alaska’s fishing industry and the state’s economy b dramatically cutting down illegal, unreported and unregulated ‘private’ fishing practices, activities that have cost Bering Sea crabbers half a billion dollars since 2000, and approximately $11 million in lost local landing revenues, and negatively impacted the market value of their catch,” Murkowski said.
“It is important that Alaskan and US fishermen have a level playing field when it comes to our fishing opportunities,” she said. “The fishing industry is a vital economic driver in our state and these treaties enhance the effectiveness of U.S. authority to deter IUU activities which harm our fishermen.”