Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) introduced the Maritime Security and Fisheries Enforcement (Maritime SAFE) Act on Tuesday to promote a whole-of-government approach to counter illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and associated threats to maritime security.
IUU fishing, which produces an estimated tens of billions of dollars annually in unlawful or undocumented revenue, poses a threat to the national security of the United States, particularly in key regions such as West Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Actors involved in IUU fishing have been known to conduct other illicit activities such as weapons, drugs, and human trafficking.
“IUU fishing is an issue that not only poses a serious threat to our own national security, but also contributes to instability in regions important to United States interests,” said Coons. “This legislation allows the United States to combat a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that undercuts the economic livelihoods of legitimate fishermen and threatens food security for communities around the world. By establishing an interagency working group and allowing federal agencies to improve law enforcement, develop a system for sharing information, and coordinate regional, national, and local action in countries affected by IUU fishing, this bill provides the United States with the requisite tools to address this important issue.”
“The United States faces a host of threats to maritime security, including those from foreign actors who fund their activities with revenue derived from illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” Wicker said. “This illegal fishing harms U.S. interests by undermining lawful fishing activities at home and abroad, and provides an opening for lower-quality, fraudulent products to enter the global seafood supply chain. I am glad to work with Senator Coons to introduce this legislation, which would help the United States address this complex threat with a coordinated government approach.”
The bipartisan Maritime SAFE Act establishes an interagency working group to provide federal agencies with a coordinated framework to effectively combat IUU fishing and authorizes a range of agency activities, including capacity building for law enforcement and port security, improving transparency and traceability in the seafood supply chain, promoting the use of technology to combat IUU fishing, and better information sharing among agencies and other organizations.