US Senate bill aims to blacklist vessels involved in illegal fishing

US Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and US Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) introduced a bill to ban vessels involved in illegal fishing from US ports and waters.

The Fighting Foreign Illegal Seafood Harvest (FISH) Act, introduced on August 25, targets illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) foreign fishing by creating a blacklist of vessels that have engaged in IUU fishing, building capacity Coast Guard Law Enforcement Officers and advancing international and bilateral negotiations on international maritime agreements and treaties.

“Alaska is the seafood superpower, the source of about two-thirds of all seafood harvested in the United States,” Sullivan said. “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.

The bill, which requires NOAA to report more regularly to Congress on illegal fishing activities and calls on US President Joe Biden’s administration to address IUU fishing in all relevant international agreements, has drawn strong backing. bipartisan support, Sullivan told Alaskan radio station KTOO.

“Senators who are very hawkish against China are focusing on that. People who want to keep our fisheries strong and sustainable are focused on that. It brings together all types of stakeholder groups,” he said.

The FISH Act also requires the US Coast Guard to increase its at-sea inspections of foreign vessels suspected of IUU fishing and to coordinate with regional fisheries management organizations to determine whether a vessel’s flag state is taking action. corrective. And he asks the Biden administration to keep up with new technologies that could help fight IUU fishing. It also calls for a study of “the complexities of the seafood trade relationship between Russia and China” and the success of prosecutions of IUU fishers operating in US waters.

“The FISH Act is an all-out effort to crack down on IUU fishing for the good of our fish, our environment, and our coastal communities,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan and Whitehouse previously worked together on passage of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Actwhich became law in 2021 and introduced measures to address the global marine debris crisis.

“Illegal pirate fishing puts Rhode Island harvesters and processors who play by the rules at a disadvantage. We must eradicate this practice to protect our fishing industry and our ocean economy,” Whitehouse said. “The FISH Act, along with my longtime Save Our Seas Act partner, Senator Sullivan, is a comprehensive effort to curb IUU fishing and restore the fisheries that support our vibrant and healthy ocean.”

The US Congress is currently taking its annual summer recess and there is no timetable for when or if a vote will take place on the bill, KTOO reported.

Photos courtesy of the US Senate

Norman D. Briggs