Bipartisan U.S. Senate Bill Tackles Illegal Fishing

Democratic and Republican senators walked down the aisle in Washington to bring in a bill aimed at reducing illegal, unregulated and unlicensed (IUU) fishing.

Illegal fishing is thought to account for up to a fifth of global catches. (Photo: Acabashi, Wikimedia, Licence)The Fighting Foreign Illegal Seafood Harvest (FISH) Act, introduced by Alaska Republican Dan Sullivan and Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, would blacklist vessels caught in the act of trading, ban them from ports and waters Americans and would provide additional funding to the Coast Guard to challenge the exchange.

Illegal fishing is thought to account for up to a fifth of the world’s catch, feeding populations the size of entire nations, but is rife with links to organized crime and causing untold ecological damage.

“Money laundering, labor exploitation, corruption and counterfeiting are a small sample of serious crimes commonly committed in IUU fishing today,” Interpol said in a 2020 report on the extent of the crime.

Earlier this summer, US President Joe Biden released a memorandum outlining his administration’s dedication to fighting the trade. At the same time, he sends his sales representative, Katherine Tai, to Alaska to meet with local fishermen.

“Alaska is the seafood superpower, the source of approximately two-thirds of all seafood harvested in the United States,” said Senator Sullivan. in a report after introducing the bill. “The extraordinary abundance of our fishery is the result of responsible stewards who have sustainably managed this incredible resource and followed the rules. But not all ships and countries abide by these rules, ravaging fish stocks with no regard for other users or future generations, especially the worst offender, China.

China’s deep sea fishing fleet – sometimes called the “dark fleet” for its habit of disabling AIS tracking systems – numbers 17,000 vessels and is the largest in the world. He plundered the world’s oceans to feed China’s growing population. The fleet has been caught in numerous instances of forced labor as well as fishing on the edges of protected waters, such as the area around the Galapagos Islands.

“Distant water fishing vessels, which engage in industrial-scale fishing operations on the high seas and in waters under the jurisdiction of other States, can be significant perpetrators of IUU fishing and related harmful fishing,” President Biden said, noting that IUU fishing often involves forced labor and other crimes.

Left unchecked, all of this undermines the economic competitiveness of the United States as well as its national security, the sustainability of fishing, and the livelihoods and human rights of fishers around the world and threatens to exacerbate the environmental and socioeconomic effects. of climate change, Biden said in his July memoir.

The proposed law would prevent commercial vessels from doing business with the United States or in American waters. While this won’t stop powers like China, it could have a significant effect on small-scale illegal fishermen.

Norman D. Briggs