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Begich Fights to Shut Down Pirate Fishing


Senator Will Use Chairmanship to Protect Alaska Fishermen

A leader in the fight against pirate fishing, U.S. Senator Mark Begich today welcomed the administration’s attention to an international problem that undercuts Alaska fishermen and others who play by the rules. Today the White House directed federal agencies to develop a comprehensive program aimed at deterring illegal fishing, addressing seafood fraud, and preventing illegally caught fish from entering the marketplace.

“Shutting down pirate fishing in Alaska has been a priority for me since I arrived in the Senate,” Begich said.  “I helped pass pirate fishing legislation out of the Commerce Committee last year so this is welcome news. As chairman of the Senate Oceans Subcommittee, I know how pirate fishing affects our fishing communities in Alaska.  Up to 40 percent of king crab on the market is illegally caught Russian crab, which has cost our fishermen some $600 million since 2000 and cost our communities millions in lost tax revenues.  I will continue to use my position to make sure this program succeeds in putting an end to pirate fishing in our coastal communities.”

Pirate fishing constitutes up to 20 percent of the wild marine fish caught each year around the world, and drains up to $23 billion from legitimate fishing enterprises. The program will be an important step in ending illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, building the market for legally and sustainably caught seafood, and supporting the men and women of the fishing industry.

Begich sponsored two bills that passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee last year to protect Alaska fishermen from the harmful economic effects of illegal pirate fishing.  The Pirate Fishing Vessels Elimination Act would deny entry into U.S. ports vessels that are known to engage in pirate fishing and improve cooperation with other nations to identify pirate fishing vessels and prevent them from entering ports.  His second bill, the International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act, gives the Coast Guard additional authority to prosecute pirate fishing.  Begich also sponsored the Safety And Fraud Enforcement for Seafood Act to improve interagency cooperation on seafood safety and fraud prevention.

Begich recently supported four treaties ratified by the Senate to address these and other issues affecting fisheries at home and abroad.  They include an agreement on Port State Measures that strengthens inspections and enforcement of seafood imports and the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Resources in the North Pacific.

Also, today the administration announced it would immediately consider how to expand protections near the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the south-central Pacific Ocean.

“While I appreciate the need to protect remote Pacific islands and their resources, Alaskans have serious concerns over unilateral withdrawals and I want to make sure that local residents and leaders were involved in the process,” said Begich. “These issues are best worked out in public.  Our own North Pacific Fishery Management Council has taken numerous steps over the years to set aside critical habitat, restricted areas to certain gear types, even completely areas closed to fishing such as the Arctic. Their open, public process works – it recognizes the jobs and economic gains that come from Alaska’s oceans, and in my book is preferable to executive action.”

The official name of Begich’s committee is the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard.

For more information on Begich’s work on oceans and fisheries visit his Senate website here.

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