Legislation to strengthen enforcement mechanisms to stop illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities is now law.
President Barack Obama signed H.R. 774, the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act into law on Nov. 5, just 15 days after passage by Congress.
H.R. 774, introduced on Feb. 5 by Madeleine Bordallo, a Democrat and the delegate for Guam At-Large in the House, built on more than six years of congressional efforts to halt the adverse effects of IUU fishing on the fisheries economy and the environment.
Oceana, an environmental entity committed to restoring the world’s wild fish populations, notes that IUU fishing is recognized as a global problem that contributes to between $10 billion to $23 billion in economic losses and comprises 20 percent of the global catch. The bill contains vital implementing legislation for the Port State Measures Agreement, part of a larger international effort to close the world’s ports to foreign vessels engaging in IUU fishing to prevent black market seafood products from entering the legal seafood trade. The Port State Measures Agreement calls upon signatory nations to effectively police their ports and keep illegally harvested seafood products from entering into commerce in their countries.
“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.
Bordallo’s bill came 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 at stopping pirate harvesters from slipping their seafood into the global market.
Mark Gleason, executive director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, in Seattle, said the legislation would help level the playing field for America’s commercial fishermen, who often face stiff market competition with illegally harvested seafood products.
This legislation also allows the US to continue its leadership on the issue of pirate fishing at the international level through formal ratification and implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement, Gleason said.
These efforts are particularly relevant for crabbers and coastal communities in Alaska, Gleason said. While crab poaching in Russia has declined over the past few years, recent comments by the Russian Association of Crab Catchers indicate the very high likelihood that poaching will resume on a larger scale in the coming year as a result of reduced legal quotas in the Russian Far East, and as such, passage of this legislation is particularly timely and welcomed by Alaska crabbers, he said.