Frontiersman: Senators Sullivan and Murkowski introduce Fish Act to combat illegal foreign seafood harvest

Last week, Senators Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, along with Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, and Roger Wicker representing Mississippi introduced the Fighting Foreign Illegal Seafood Harvest, also known as the FISH Act, legislation to combat foreign illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by blacklisting offending vessels from U.S. ports and waters, bolstering the U.S. Coast Guard’s enforcement capabilities, and advancing international and bilateral negotiations to achieve enforceable agreements and treaties.


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


“Our fishery’s extraordinary abundance is the result of responsible stewards who’ve followed the rules and sustainably managed this incredible resource. 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,” he added.


“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,” said Senator Murkowski.


Senator Whitehouse, co-founder of the Senate Oceans Caucus said: “Our bipartisan bill cracks down on illegal fishing operations to level the playing field...This all-hands-on-deck approach will help stamp out IUU fishing operations and restore the fisheries that keep our oceans vibrant and healthy.”


Some of the key provisions of the FISH Act include directing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish a black list of foreign vessels and owners that have engaged in IUU fishing and address IUU fishing in any relevant international agreements.


Other provisions include directing the U.S. Coast Guard to increase its at-sea inspection of foreign vessels suspected of IUU fishing, and coordinate with regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs) to determine if a vessel’s flag state is taking corrective action; and to direct the Coast Guard administration to report to Congress on how new technologies can aid in the fight against IUU fishing, 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 builds on prior landmark legislation against IUU fishing, including the Maritime SAFE Act, authored by Senators Wicker and Chris Coons (D-Del.) and signed into law in December 2019 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.


“Nearly 50 years ago, the Magnuson-Stevens Act established a framework that continues to be a model of sustainable fisheries management. 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,” said Senator Murkowski.


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


“My colleagues and I have assembled a package to tackle this foreign threat to the sustainability of our oceans—by ratcheting up inspection and enforcement, raising the costs for the purveyors of foreign illegal fishing, and working with other nations to eliminate any safe harbor for illegal fishermen and their backers. The FISH Act is an all-hands-on-deck effort to crack down on foreign IUU fishing for the sake of our fish, our environment, and our coastal communities,” said Senator Sullivan.


Senators Sullivan, Whitehouse, Murkowski, Schatz and Wicker have worked together extensively on ocean sustainability issues, most notably on the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, a comprehensive legislation that addresses the global marine debris crisis, which became law in 2020.

By:  Katie Stavick
Source: Frontiersman