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Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect U.S. Fishermen from Unfair Competition

WASHINGTON, D.C.---Senator Daniel K. Inouye introduced legislation today that would bar ships engaged in pirate fishing operations from entering U.S. ports and offloading their catch.

The bill implements an international agreement aimed at helping U.S. 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 U.S. 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 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.

“Pirate fishing is a major problem around the globe. It puts unsustainable pressure on fish stocks, marine mammals and habitats; ignores fair labor standards and distorts seafood markets. It has a major impact on some of the poorest countries in the world and affects Alaska fishermen. Earlier this year we saw 112 tons of illegal Russian king crab seized by NOAA special agents working with their colleagues in the Russian Border Guard. This new treaty is a positive step toward cracking down on these pirates, protecting the jobs of legitimate working fishermen and preserving the seafood resources upon which we all depend,” said Senator Begich.

"Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a pervasive global problem that has serious economic and ecological consequences for our domestic fishing industries. Indeed, it steals between $10 and $26 billion from legal fishermen and wreaks havoc on migratory and straddling fish stocks. Congress must do its part to prevent overharvesting, but until the other countries that share our valuable fish stocks stop overfishing, start managing the resources for the long term, and start enforcing management plans, populations will continue to decrease, said Senator Snowe.

“Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing practices drive down prices and create unfair competition for fishermen in Rhode Island and around the country who work hard and play by the rules,” said Senator Whitehouse. “I commend Chairman Inouye for introducing this important legislation.”

“My home state of Alaska produces more over half of the nation’s commercial seafood harvest, and we are proud of our fisheries. But recent events have shown that our ocean resources need to be protected to a higher degree,” said Senator Murkowski. “Just this September, the U.S. Coast Guard interdicted and seized a Japanese fishing vessel suspected of illegal high-seas drift net fishing. This bill and its associated treaty will starve the market for these criminals of the sea, and will help deter and punish those who seek to gain from participating or supporting such activity.”

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.

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