Analysis

Pew Congratulates U.S. Senate Panel on Votes to Crack Down on Pirate Fishing

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, or IUU fishing, is a global problem that poses significant environmental, economic, and security concerns for the United States. These fishermen steal up to 26 million tonnes of fish from the ocean each year—three to six times more than the U.S. commercial fishing fleet catches annually. IUU fishing is estimated to cost the global economy up to $23 billion a year.

Two bills making their way through Congress would help combat IUU fishing. On July 30, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act (S. 269) and the Pirate Fishing Elimination Act (S. 267). Both now move to the full Senate for consideration. These measures would strengthen enforcement mechanisms against foreign IUU fishing operators who damage ocean ecosystems, undermine international fisheries conservation efforts, and undercut the interests of U.S. fishermen and consumers.

"We urge the Senate to immediately pass these bills and demonstrate leadership in protecting U.S. ports, coastal economies, and the health of our oceans."

-Tony Long

Tony Long, who leads The Pew Charitable Trust's global project to end illegal fishing, welcomed the actions by the Senate panel and praised its chairman, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), and ranking member, Senator John Thune (R-SD).

“We appreciate the efforts of Senators Rockefeller and Thune and the rest of the Commerce Committee for advancing these critical pieces of legislation,” says Long. “There are a growing number of countries around the world taking concrete action to end illegal fishing. We urge the Senate to immediately pass these bills and demonstrate leadership in protecting U.S. ports, coastal economies, and the health of our oceans.”

The International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act would amend statutes dealing with international fisheries to simplify and streamline enforcement protocols. It would improve interagency coordination to boost efficiency and increase capacity for international enforcement. The measure complements other pending legislation addressing illegal fishing, most notably the Pirate Fishing Elimination Act.

This legislation would also implement the Port State Measures Agreement adopted in 2009 by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. It would take the steps required by the pact to deny port access and services to foreign vessels engaged in illegal fishing activity.

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