US Senate bill aims to blacklist vessels involved in illegal fishing

Published on
August 29, 2022
U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (left) and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (right)

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

The Fighting Foreign Illegal Seafood Harvest (FISH) Act, introduced 25 August, targets foreign illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing by creating a blacklist of vessels that have engaged in IUU fishing, bolstering the U.S. Coast Guard’s enforcement capabilities, and advancing international and bilateral negotiations on international agreements and treaties with a maritime focus.

“Alaska is the superpower of seafood, the source of roughly two-thirds of all seafood harvested in the United States,” Sullivan said. “Our fishery’s extraordinary abundance is the result of responsible stewards who’ve sustainably managed this incredible resource and followed the rules. But not all vessels and countries abide by these rules, ravaging fish stocks without regard for other users or future generations – particularly the worst offender, China.”

The bill, which requires NOAA to make more regular reports to Congress on illegal fishing activities and calls on the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to address IUU fishing in any relevant international agreements, has attracted strong bipartisan support, Sullivan told Alaska radio station KTOO.

“Senators who are very hawkish against China are focused on this. People who want to keep our fisheries strong and sustainable are focused on this. This unites all different kinds of stakeholder groups,” he said.

The FISH Act also mandates the U.S. Coast Guard to increase its at-sea inspection of foreign vessels suspected of IUU fishing, and to coordinate with regional fishery management organizations to determine if a vessel’s flag-state is taking corrective action. And it asks the Biden administration to track new technologies with potential to aid in the fight against 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 against IUU fishermen operating in U.S. waters.

“The FISH Act is an all-hands-on-deck effort to crack down on IUU fishing for the sake 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 Act, which became law in 2021 and introduced measures to address the global marine debris crisis.

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

The U.S. Congress is currently taking its annual summer recess and there is no timeline for when or if a vote will be taken on the bill, KTOO reported.

Photos courtesy of U.S. Senate

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