Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Begich, Young Introduce Legislation to Sink Pirate Fishing Vessels

Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, is pursuing through Congress his idea of sinking at sea unregistered fishing vessels operating in waters of the United States.

The Alaska Democrat first proposed the idea after the unregistered, rat-infected Bangun Perkasa was seized by the US Coast Guard, some 2,600 miles southwest of Kodiak.

Instead of just bringing it to shore and cleaning it up, Begich wanted the rats on board exterminated and the vessel sunk at sea. Since at the time of that vessel capture the Coast Guard lacked the resources to decontaminate the vessel, making it safe to sink, the vessel was salvaged.

Then on Nov. 18, Begich in the Senate, and Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, in the House, introduced the Pirate Fishing Vessel Disposal Act of 2011.

The legislation would give the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard authority to dispose of pirate fishing vessels engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Options include being sunk by the Coast Guard in live-fire training exercises; being transferred to developing nations for use in fisheries patrol and enforcement activities; being transferred to other government or non-profit institutions for training, education, or research, or scrapping and recycling the vessels.

For vessels to be sunk by live fire, the bill requires that the vessels have all fuel removed and that they be decontaminated of harmful substances; that all fishing gear and other potential marine debris be removed, and that they be sunk in US waters more than 50 miles offshore, in water more than a mile deep.

Begich worked with NOAA, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the Coast Guard and the US Maritime Administration to craft the bill.

Sponsors of the legislation can’t speculate on what it would cost at this time, as a pirate fishing vessel has never been dealt with like this before, a Begich aide said. The identified source of funds is the Oil Spill Liability Fund.

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