December 16, 2021

Whitehouse-Sullivan Provision in Defense Bill Aimed at Cracking Down on Pirate Fishing

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) today announced passage of their maritime security proposal as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has now cleared Congress and is expected to be signed into law by President Biden. The Senators’ amendment requires the Secretary of the Navy to produce a report on maritime security measures related to illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

“We need to protect Rhode Island’s hardworking fishing industry by rooting out unfair competition from illegal pirate fishing,” said Senator Whitehouse, a co-founder of the Senate Oceans Caucus. “I look forward to continuing to work with Senator Sullivan and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to curb illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.”

“As the largest producer of seafood in the nation—roughly sixty percent of American seafood comes from our waters—Alaska is undoubtedly the super power of seafood for our country,” said Senator Sullivan. “I intend to do all I can to keep it that way, including ensuring that we have an all-of-government effort to crack down on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. This provision will help protect America’s fishing fleet, as well as the seafood industry across the globe against bad actors, particularly as China continues to use its fishing fleet to project power in the Indo-Pacific and, increasingly, around the world. I look forward to continue working with Senator Whitehouse on pirate fishing and on cleaning up our oceans. Our work together is a model for how two senators, from different sides of the aisle, can work together to get big things done for our nation.”

The amendment will require the U.S. Navy to share information about steps taken to support the dissemination of unclassified information and data to regional partners, best practices learned from public-private partnerships, and any new authorities or capabilities needed to support counter-IUU efforts in order to guide future legislative efforts.

The legislation builds on maritime security provisions Whitehouse secured in last year’s NDAA. Whitehouse championed measures in the previous defense bill that required the Department of Defense to update Congress on previously enacted measured to combat illegal fishing, directed the Navy to work with the Coast Guard to assess solutions for tracking vessels engaged in unlawful activity at sea, and requested that the Office of Naval Intelligence provide an update on foreign governments using distant-water fishing fleets to undermine American interests.

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.

The bipartisan Senate Oceans Caucus works to find common ground in protecting oceans and coasts. Thanks to the Caucus’s leadership, Congress has taken 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.

Meaghan McCabe (401) 453-5294

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