Today the U.S. Congress took one step closer to passing legislation to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated international fishing, or “pirate fishing.” The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation reported out two bills, the International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act (S.269) and the Pirate Fishing Elimination Act (S.267), which would put in place important measures to prevent, deter, and eliminate pirate fishing around the world. The two bills, which were introduced in the last Congress by the late Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, received sweeping bipartisan support. Following today’s success in the Senate committee, the bills will head to the Senate floor for final passage.
Pirate fishing encompasses a variety of illegal fishing activities, including vessels fishing inside another nation’s waters without permission, under-reporting of catch, fishing in marine protected areas, or fishing in places, at times, or with fishing gear that is prohibited. Globally, pirate fishing decimates fish populations, exacerbates poverty and food insecurity in nations that depend on a steady supply of seafood for subsistence, and threatens the livelihoods of law-abiding fishermen. Experts estimate that pirate fishing makes up one third of global catch, costing between $10 and $23 billion annually.
The two bills the Senate committee passed today will take important steps to combat this growing global problem. The International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act expands the ability of the U.S. to combat pirate fishing by strengthening law enforcement, creating a blacklist of vessels and vessel owners that are engaged in pirate fishing, allowing import refusal of illegal seafood products and restricting access to our ports, and more. These actions will help prevent illegally-caught seafood from being imported into the U.S., the second largest market for seafood in the world, thus protecting consumers and law-abiding fishermen while reducing the incentive to participate in pirate fishing activities.
The Pirate Fishing Elimination Act implements a treaty known as the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing, which 25 nations have ratified to combat pirate fishing. This bill designates specific U.S. ports to which foreign fishing vessels may seek entry, allows the U.S. to deny entry and port services to any vessel suspected of carrying illegally-caught seafood or of engaging in pirate fishing, strengthens enforcement and establishes new penalties against the import and sale of illegally-caught seafood and the mislabeling of seafood, and more.
To get these bills passed we need the support of your Senator! You can help by contacting your Senator and telling them that you care about stopping pirate fishing and that you support both the International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act (S. 269) and the Pirate Fishing Elimination Act (S. 267).