Economic Threat of Pirate Fishing: Senators Stand up for Alaska Fishermen, Coastal Communities
February 12, 2014
Senator Murkowski (R-AK) testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about the multi-million dollar economic threat posed by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing to Alaska’s seafood industry, and the need for Senate ratification for the Port State Measures Agreement. Murkowski’s testimony took a unique and personal tone when she recounted that her own son is just returning to port after a season fishing crab, saying that strengthened laws have resulted in “a much better world for our crabbers and fisherman than just years ago.”
“It is important that Alaskan and U.S. fishermen have a level playing field when it comes to our fishing opportunities. Russian IUU crab has been a serious problem for Alaska since at least 1990,” said Murkowski.
Murkowski went on to say that “as is true for most commodity markets, crab prices are driven by supply. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) crab lowers the market price to fishermen and processors, and tax revenues to the State of Alaska. The estimated impacts of IUU crab to harvesters since 2000 is about $560 million, with an additional cost to crab processing ports of over $11 million in lost landing revenues. These are real dollars that we are talking about and this has a real impact to Alaska.”
“Two of the treaties before you today, the Port State Measures Agreement and the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North Pacific Ocean, are of particular interest to my state’s fishermen," said Murkowski. "I believe the treaties before you will enhance the effectiveness of U.S. authority to deter IUU activities.”
In addition to discussing the economic threats posed by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, Senator Murkowski also strongly reminded the Foreign Relations Committee that illegal shipping activities are also taking an additional moral toll due to human trafficking.
As Chairman of the Senate subcommittee with official jurisdiction over oceans and fisheries, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) today also blasted the pirate fishing industry which has cost coastal communities millions of dollars, and defended Alaska fishermen who play by the rules.
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, which was discussed at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today. 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.
According to information provided by Begich, four treaties would address these and other issues affecting fisheries at home and abroad. The treaties were all recommended by the President, but have not yet been ratified by the Senate.
“As Chairman of the Senate Oceans Subcommittee, I was happy to help pass pirate fishing legislation out of the Commerce committee last year,” said Begich. “Alaska fishermen know first-hand the impact that pirate fishing has on their businesses – in 2011, nearly 100 million pounds of illegally caught Russian crab was on the market. These effects also spill over into the coastal communities that have lost over $10 million in tax revenues. I will continue to use my position as Chairman to move legislation in the Senate to protect Alaska fishermen and our fish.”
The official name of Begich’s committee is the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, the Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard.
Last October, Begich and three of his colleagues, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), wrote to the Foreign Relations Committee to express support for the four treaties: