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Legislative Update: Pirate Fishing is on the radar and has caught the attention of Congress

Illegal fishing has greatly impacted the seafood industry and anglers and government officials are on the same page in regards to fixing it. A proposal is expected to go into law after clearing Congress and will effectively restore the fishing industry that so many depend on.

WASHINGTON, DC—A maritime security proposal for the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act has cleared Congress and is expected to be signed into law by President Biden. As amended by Senators Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), the proposal requires the Secretary of the Navy to construct a report on maritime security measures related to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.


The amendment calls for the U.S. Navy to disclose necessary steps taken to support unclassified information and data dissemination to regional partners and any new authorities or capabilities needed to support counter-IUU efforts to guide future legislative decisions.


The senators recognize IUU fisheries annually produce 11 million to 26 million tons of seafood, generating global economic losses between $10 billion and $23 billion.

The proposal, according to Sullivan, would help protect America’s fishing fleet and the global seafood industry against IUU practices.


“According to a 2014 report by the Marine Conservation Institute, Rhode Island may have lost as much as $24 million in revenue and as many as 400 jobs due to IUU fishing,” said Whitehouse in a press release from Dec. 16.


Whitehouse has approved provisions in the previous defense legislation that necessitated the Defense Department to update Congress on previously enacted measures to combat IUU fishing. The provisions also directed the Navy to work with the Coast Guard to analyze solutions for tracking vessels that have engaged in unlawful activity on the water.


“As the largest producer of seafood in the nation—roughly sixty percent of American seafood comes from our waters—Alaska is undoubtedly the superpower of seafood for our country,” said Sullivan in the press release. “I intend to do all I can to keep it that way, including ensuring that we have an all-of-government effort to crack down on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.”


According to Whitehouse, the provision will also help to protect America’s fishing fleet and the seafood industry across the globe against bad competitors, especially as China continues to use its fishing fleet to project power in the Indo-Pacific and around the world.


The press release can be found on Whitehouse’s website.


Joining Whitehouse in pushing for the maritime security proposal were Congressmen Jim Langevin (RI) and Jimmy Panetta (CA). They succeeded in including the legislation in the House version of the NDAA.


According to the provisions published by the office of Whitehouse

“It would:

  • Require the Department of Defense to report to Congress on the Navy’s implementation of measures to combat illegal fishing that were included in the FY 2020 NDAA.
  • Direct the Navy to work with the Coast Guard to assess commercial solutions for tracking vessels engaged in illegal fishing and other unlawful activity at sea and sharing that information among U.S. maritime services and partner nations.
  • Require the Office of Naval Intelligence to report to Congress on the way bad actors like China use their distant-water fishing fleets to challenge the sovereignty of their neighbors, supplement the aggressive activities of their naval and coast guard vessels, and undermine the interests of the U.S. and its allies.”

Whitehouse is a founding member and Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus, which works to find commonalities in preserving, protecting, and enhancing the United States’ oceans and coasts. A primary focus of the Oceans Caucus has been putting an end to illegal fishing. With the help of the Caucus’s guidance, Congress has taken essential steps to guard against IUU fishing, including ratifying a series of crucial IUU treaties with partnering nations and approving implementing legislation to bring those treaties into effect.

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