Wednesday, February 11, 2015

House Gives IUU Legislation Another Try

The 114th Congress will take a second look at new bipartisan legislation to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, the product of extensive negotiations between Democrats and Republicans in the House during the 113th Congress.

In a news release Feb. 10, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said he has joined Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, D-Guam, in introducing H.R. 774, the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015.

The legislation is a newer version of a bill sponsored by Bordallo that was the subject of extensive negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the House during the 113th Congress, and progressed to unanimous consent passage in the House Natural Resources Committee on Sept. 18, 2014.

Co-sponsors of the new legislation include Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR; Rep. John Garamendi, D-CA; Rep. Ed Royce, R-CA; and Rep. Rob Wittman, R-VA.

Introduction of H.R. 774 came just a day after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its latest biennial report to Congress on IUU fishing. Global losses attributable to IUU fishing have been estimated to be between $10 billion and $23 billion annually, undermining the ability to sustainably manage fisheries as well as economic opportunities for US fishermen, the report said.

Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico were the three nations of 10 identified in NOAA’s 2013 biennial report for engaging in IUU practices were identified again in the 2015 report for new IUU activity.

Bordallo said that countries like Australia, Palau and now even Papua New Guinea have led the way in combating IUU fishing, and the US must take immediate and forceful action as well. The bill provides much needed enforcement tools to the Coast Guard and NOAA to combat IUU fishing, and it implements a treaty ratified by the Senate last year to deny vessels port entry and services if they engage in IUU fishing, she said.

“The hard working men and women of Oregon’s fishing industry abide by some of the strictest laws in the world in order to maintain sustainable, healthy fisheries,” DeFazio said. “But if the rest of the world continues to look the other way when it comes to illegal catches, West Coast fisheries will be devastated. We need strong, enforceable action to make sure our fishermen can compete on a level playing field,” he said.

“Criminal international fishing outfits rob American fishermen of their paychecks, devastate marine ecosystems, and fuel a range of other illegal actions, including terrorism,” said Garamendi. H.R. 744, he said, would further empower the Coast Guard to better coordinate with other federal agencies to crack down on IUU fishing.

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