Legislation designed to protect U.S. fisheries

President Barak Obama took the time in the waning days of his administration to sign a bill that consolidates a number of treaties that protect fisheries in the North Pacific and other areas.

He signed into law H.R. 6452, the “Ensuring Access to Pacific Fisheries Act,” which has a long-winded description: it implements the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North Pacific Ocean, the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fishery Resources in the South Pacific Ocean, and the amendments to the Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries.

According to the administration, the measure helps promote sound fishery management; enables the United States to better combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing; and prevent destructive fishing practices and contribute to the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources on the high seas.

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska was one of the lawmakers responsible for getting the bill through the senate.

“This legislation will rightfully give the United States a voice and assert our influence in both the fisheries management and conservation decisions in the high seas areas covered by these treaties,” said Sullivan. “Doing so will provide opportunities for our fishermen in the future, and help to protect their current activities for generations to come.”

Preventing illegal, unregulated and unreported, or IUU, fishing was a passion of the late Sen. Ted Stevens, and has an impact on many fisheries in Alaska when it comes to prices and issues related to over-fishing.

IUU fishing is not confined to the high seas, nor is it only done by vessels operating under “flags of non-compliance,” where a nation allows a vessel to fly its flag but does not ensure that the vessel follows the fishery regulations of that nation.

Russian vessels are frequently known for illegal catches of red king crab, and those pirated crab drive down prices in markets that do not ensure the crab are caught legally and in a method in keeping with international treaties and norms of conservation.

Even careful countries such as the United States import large amounts of IUU-caught seafood due to opaque supply chains and problems with Chinese reprocessing.

The journal Science Direct estimated in 2014 that between 20 and 32 percent of fish imports in the United States are illegal, indicating a need for stronger treaties and improved supply chain documentation.

Cristy Fry can be reached at realist468@gmail.com.