Five US senators reintroduce FISH Act to fight IUU fishing

The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

Five U.S. senators have reintroduced the Fighting Foreign Illegal Seafood Harvest (FISH) Act, which would ban vessels involved in illegal fishing from U.S. ports and waters.

U.S. senators Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) introduced the bill on 20 April, after having backed it in the previous congressional session in August 2022.

The bill would create a blacklist of vessels that have engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and ban all listed vessels from entering U.S. waters. 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. It also instructs the executive branch, headed by U.S. President Joe Biden, to maintain a database of new technologies with potential to aid in the fight against IUU fishing. 

“I am pleased to reintroduce the FISH Act with Senator Sullivan, one of my longtime partners on oceans issues,” Whitehouse said in a press release.  “Our bipartisan bill cracks down on illegal fishing operations to level the playing field for Rhode Island fishermen and processors who play by the rules. This all-hands-on-deck approach will help stamp out IUU fishing operations and restore the fisheries that keep our oceans vibrant and healthy.”

The bill also calls for a study of “the complexities of the seafood trade relationship between Russia and China,” and the success of prosecutions against IUU fishing operations in U.S. waters.

“Nearly 50 years ago, the Magnuson-Stevens Act established a framework that continues to be a model of sustainable fisheries management,” Murkowski said. “Unfortunately, foreign illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing undermines the laws that make U.S. fisheries some of the best managed in the world. We must ensure that we have the appropriate policies in place to ensure the sustainability of Alaska’s – and our nation’s – oceans and fishing communities. I’m proud to help introduce legislation that will fight back against IUU fishing, to help safeguard the livelihoods of U.S. fishermen and women – key players in supporting America’s economy and food security – and ensure the sustainability of our fisheries remains a focus at home and abroad.”

The five senators worked together on passage of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, which became law in 2020 and introduced measures to address the global marine debris crisis. Additionally, several were key in the passage of the Maritime SAFE Act, which increased U.S. cooperation with other countries on monitoring and enforcement of IUU fishing, while helping prevent illegally caught fish from entering the market by increasing traceability and transparency in the seafood supply chain, and improving coordination across government agencies by establishing an interagency working group focused on seafood fraud and illegal fishing.

“Illegal fishing poses a threat domestically and internationally and helps to fund criminal activity around the globe,” Wicker said. “Building on the Maritime SAFE Act and enacting stronger enforcement would help protect national security and the global seafood supply chain from illicit activity.”

Photo courtesy of Kostiantyn1302/Shutterstock


Want seafood news sent to your inbox?

You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time. Diversified Communications | 121 Free Street, Portland, ME 04101 | +1 207-842-5500