By Sonia Isotov
Senator Daniel K. Inouye introduced legislation yesterday that would bar ships engaged in pirate fishing operations from entering US ports and offloading their catch.
The bill implements an international agreement aimed at helping US fisherman and consumers by blocking operations that are engaging in or supporting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), also known as pirate fishing, from slipping their seafood into the global market.
The bipartisan Pirate Fishing Elimination Act is cosponsored by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Senator Mark Begich (D-AK), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME).
The US was one of the first countries to express an intention to ratify the United Nations Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Measures.
Three countries and the European Union have already done so, and 18 more countries have expressed an intention to ratify it. The agreement will take effect when 25 countries ratify it.
Each year illegal fishing produces between 11 and 26 million tons of seafood, resulting in economic losses with a global value of between $10 and $23 billion.
“The United States is one of the largest importers of seafood in the world and it is imperative that we ensure that our fishermen can compete with their international counterparts in a fair manner. Illegal fishing puts Americans out of business, it destroys marine habitats and it has the potential to inflict irreparable harm on global fish stocks. I will continue to do everything I can to help preserve American jobs while protecting the environment,” said Senator Inouye, in a written statement yesterday.
Countries that ratify the Port State Measures Agreement have four primary obligations:
• Designate which ports foreign-flagged vessels may seek to enter;
• Restrict port entry and access to port services (including for the landing, transshipment, processing and packaging of fish) by vessels that have been engaged in IUU fishing or vessels supporting these activities, particularly those on the IUU vessel list of a regional fishery management organization (RFMO)
• Conduct dockside vessel inspections in the designated ports and meet minimum standards for inspections, inspection reports and inspector training;
• Share information, including inspection results, when evidence of IUU fishing is found during the course of an inspection.