After taking to the floor to demand passage of four treaties -- including one to curb pirate fishing that harms Alaskan fishermen and other fishermen around the world - U.S. Senator Mark Begich praised the swift passage of the treaties on the Senate floor shortly thereafter.
Comparing the illegal fishing activities to piracy, Begich condemned the illegal activities that harm efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks for long-term sustainability and cheat law-abiding fishermen out of an estimated $23 billion every year.
"I call it like I see it and this is piracy, plain and simple," said Begich, chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard. "These thieves operate on the high seas, ignore catch limits and damage habitats. They undercut legitimate fishermen who play by the rules. Alaska crab fishermen estimate they alone have lost half a billion dollars to illegal crab imports."
The passage marks a bipartisan victory for Begich and his colleagues, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), members of the Senate Oceans Caucus, who have been calling for passage of these treaties for months. Last October, the senators wrote to the Foreign Relations Committee to express support for the four treaties. The four senators joined each other today on the Senate floor to encourage passage of the treaties, which happened shortly after.
"These treaties tighten restrictions against pirate fishing and apply the lessons of sustainable fishery management that Alaska has pioneered throughout the Pacific and Northwest Atlantic," Begich said. "They are important to international fishery conservation efforts and help protect markets important for Alaska fishermen."
The four treaties are:
* The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing -- Cracks down on imports of illegally-caught fish by restricting access to ports used to import seafood and strengthening inspections.
* The Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North Pacific Ocean -- Establishes a regional fishery management organization (RFMO) in the North Pacific to limit fishing on seamounts in international waters which provide important habitat for fish stocks.
* The Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fishery Resources in the South Pacific Ocean - Establishes a similar RFMO for the South Pacific to protect non-migratory groundfish species such as orange roughy and jack mackerel.
* An amendment to the Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries - Strengthens a preexisting agreement on fishing in the Northwest Atlantic off the U.S., Canada and Greenland, by bringing it in line with standards of modern fisheries governance.