12.11.20

Whitehouse Maritime Security Measures Clear Congress

Key protections against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing poised to become law

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) cheered passage today of his maritime security proposal as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has now cleared Congress. Whitehouse’s provisions will help defend against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IU) fishing activities. The House and Senate have both agreed to the legislation with veto-proof majorities.

“I’m thrilled to see my maritime security proposal set to become law,” said Whitehouse. “Rhode Islanders rely on healthy fisheries for their livelihood and to sustain a vibrant, healthy ocean. My proposal will defend our fisheries by boosting enforcement of important protections against pirate fishing on the high seas. Thank you to Congressmen Langevin and Panetta for their partnership in passing this proposal.”

Joining Whitehouse in pushing for the maritime security proposal were Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), who succeeded in including the legislation in the House version of the NDAA.

Whitehouse’s proposal includes provisions related to maritime security and illegal activity at sea. It would:

  • Require the Department of Defense to report to Congress on the Navy’s implementation of measures to combat illegal fishing that were included in the FY 2020 NDAA.
  • Direct the Navy to work with the Coast Guard to assess commercial solutions for tracking vessels engaged in illegal fishing and other unlawful activity at sea, and sharing that information among U.S. maritime services and partner nations.
  • Require the Office of Naval Intelligence to report to Congress on the way bad actors like China use their distant-water fishing fleets to challenge the sovereignty of their neighbors, supplement the aggressive activities of their naval and coast guard vessels, and undermine the interests of the U.S. and its allies.

Each year, IUU fishing produces between 11 and 26 million tons of seafood, resulting in global economic losses valued between $10 billion and $23 billion. According to a 2014 report by the Marine Conservation Institute, Rhode Island may have lost as much as $24 million in revenue and as many as 400 jobs due to IUU fishing.

Whitehouse is a founding member and Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus, which works to find common ground in protecting our oceans and coasts. A central focus for the Oceans Caucus has been ending illegal fishing. Through the Caucus’s leadership, Congress has taken key steps to guard against IUU fishing, including ratifying a series of key IUU treaties with partner nations and passing implementing legislation to bring those treaties into effect.