WASHINGTON – Today, the United States Senate passed the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R. 774), which aims to keep illegal fish and vessels out of U.S ports. The bill would provide the federal government with additional tools to eliminate illegal fishing as well as allow for inspection and monitoring of illegal foreign vessels, broaden data-sharing with foreign governments and increase criminal penalties. Introduced by Rep. Madeleine Bordallo, (D-Guam), the bill passed the House of Representatives in July and will now be sent to the president’s desk for signing.
One key component of the bill is that it contains implementing legislation needed for the U.S. to ratify the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), which would require member countries to block their ports to ships known or believed to have illegal products on board. The PSMA is part of a larger international effort to close the world’s ports to foreign vessels that engage in IUU fishing and prevent black market seafood products from entering the legal seafood trade. In order for the agreement to take effect, 25 countries must ratify it, and at present, 14 other countries have signed on, including the European Union, Australia, Chile and New Zealand.
Oceana applauded the bill’s passage and released the following statement from senior campaign director Beth Lowell:
“We applaud Congress for taking a stand against the modern-day pirates who exploit weak enforcement and lack of regulations on the high seas and in many countries around the world. Illegal fishing not only cheats seafood consumers, but also hurts honest fishermen who play by the rules.
IUU fishing is a global criminal enterprise that threatens ocean ecosystems and vulnerable marine species, negatively impacting legitimate seafood businesses on a global scale. According to recent estimates, IUU fishing accounts for 20 percent of the world’s catch and contributes to economic losses of $10-23 billion, threatening 260 million jobs that depend on marine fisheries around the world.
Although the passage of today’s bill is a critical step in ending IUU fishing, more must be done to solve the problem. To put an end to illegal fishing and ensure our seafood is safe and honestly labeled, the United States must require full chain traceability for all seafood products sold in the U.S., from boat to plate. Today, the U.S. Congress has demonstrated its commitment to closing its ports to pirate fishers.
We encourage other countries to take a stand against illegal fishing by closing world markets to illegal products and ratifying the Port State Measures Agreement.”
In June 2014, President Obama established a Presidential Task Force on IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud, which released an action plan in March outlining international and domestic measures to address these issues. This first recommendation stated “Work with Congress to pass implementing legislation for the Port State Measures Agreement,” recognizing the need for this binding multilateral agreement to combat IUU fishing.