Legislation to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities has passed the US Senate and now awaits President Obama’s signature.
The Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015 is the companion bill to legislation which passed the House of Representatives in July.
The bill increases enforcement capabilities for a number of international fishery agreements that combat IUU fishing.
“By cracking down on the illegal harvesting of fish, we are leveling the playing field and protecting the livelihoods of the 80,000 Alaskans who are directly or indirectly impacted by our seafood industry,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who introduced the measure in the Senate, with Senators Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, earlier this year.
Congressional efforts to combat pirate fishing have resulted in several measures being introduced in the House and Senate over the past few years.
The bill awaiting the president’s signature comes in the wake of legislation first introduced by the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, on Dec. 12, 2011, to bar ships engaged in pirate fishing operations from entering US ports to offload their catch.
Inouye’s measure was aimed at implementing an international agreement aimed by stopping pirate harvesters from slipping their seafood into the global market.
The bipartisan Pirate Fishing Elimination Act was cosponsored by Senator Democrats John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, Mark Begich, of Alaska, and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, with Senate Republicans Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska, and Olympia Snowe of Maine.
The US was one of the first countries to express an intention to ratify the United Nations Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Measures.
As Inouye noted in introducing his 2011 bill, each year illegal fishing produces between 11 and 26 million tons of seafood, resulting in economic losses with a global value of between $10 billion and $12 billion. Begich noted that in 2011 alone, NOAA special agents seized 112 tons of illegal Russian king crab by working with their colleagues in the Russian Border Guard.
IUU fishing for crab in Russia has had an adverse impact on Alaska crab fishermen by disrupting the market and lowering prices, and it is threatening the sustainability of the big eye tuna that is the staple of Hawaii’s longline fishery, Murkowski said.