Huffman-Graves Amendment to Combat Illegal Fishing Passes Out of Committee
Washington, D.C. – Today, a bipartisan amendment led by Representatives Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Garret Graves (R-LA), which seeks to give the Coast Guard greater capabilities in combatting illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing, passed out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as part of the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2022. This amendment would expand the use of existing Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) technology and promote transparency for fisheries practices.
During the committee mark up, Rep. Huffman highlighted how current gaps in U.S. policies are contributing to rampant IUU fishing and making it more difficult for American fisheries to compete in the global marketplace. By expanding the use of AIS, the Coast Guard will be better equipped to efficiently combat illegal fishing activities.
Click here to watch a recording of Rep. Huffman’s remarks.
Last month, Rep. Huffman’s bill with Rep. Garret Graves, the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act, passed out of the House as part of the America COMPETES Act. This bill aims to combat IUU fishing and human rights abuses in the seafood supply chain and make America more competitive in the global seafood market.
Text of the amendment can be found here.
A transcript of Reps. Huffman and Graves' remarks can be found below.
Congressman Jared Huffman:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Graves. A lot of good work has gone into this bill, and I’m grateful especially for incorporating Congressman Garret Graves and my amendment expanding the use of a very important tool in promoting transparency at sea. These are devices called Automatic Identification Systems, or AIS. And what this does is it shares the location of vessels so that we know where fishing is occurring, and we can identify patterns that indicate illegal activity. It’s a tool that will give the Coast Guard more efficiency in combatting illegal fishing activities and better allow our country to leverage foreign actors to address something that’s a real problem: IUU fishing, or illegal, unreported, and unauthorized fishing.
“Here in America of course we have some of the most sustainable fisheries in the world. But illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is a serious, rampant problem internationally, and people may not realize this, but we’re the top importer of seafood in the world. So, this is our problem. Unfortunately, because of gaps in current policies, the U.S. is importing seafood that was caught by way of these illicit practices, and [it] should go without saying that our country and our consumers should in no way, shape, or form be financing things like forced labor and slavery and other terrible practices on the high seas. And to make matters worse, we know that these practices are essentially cost-cutting measures for these foreign fleets, and that makes it more difficult for American fishermen to play by the rules and also be competitive in the global marketplace.
“So, this provision expands requirements to U.S. vessels that currently have AIS to use them in more areas – the navigable waters of the U.S. and our E.E.Z. And it creates a grant program for vessels that are 50 feet or larger to obtain these devices as an incentive to increase transparency. This is a provision that goes a long way toward increasing the transparency of our own fisheries, and that’s necessary for us to work towards requiring the same for importers who so often are the perpetrators of illegal fishing and other crimes at sea. So, I want to thank my colleague Congressman Garret Graves for partnering with me on this important work, and again thank you Mr. Chair and Ranking Member for your support. I yield back.”
Congressman Garret Graves:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I just want to quickly go to the comments of Congressman Huffman. It’s not often I can say I agree with everything that he just said, so I want to take advantage of that.
“Seriously, Congressman Huffman and I have bipartisan legislation related to illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. We’ve taken a component of that bipartisan bill, and it is included in the manager’s amendment, and I think it’s complementary to what Mr. Young is doing. Mr. Chairman, our E.E.Z. in the United States is millions and millions of square miles. As I recall, it’s well over 4 million square miles of territory, and without the ability to know that vessels are there, we can’t enforce it. We don’t have the capacity to monitor satellites that do aerial reconnaissance missions, and so this does complement that. And now I think it’s important for us to all note that there has been reports of vessels that are mis-reporting their station, mis-reporting their location, and they’re doing it to illegally fish and illegally circumvent sanctions and things along those lines, so I don’t think that this amendment is going to solve all the problems, but I think it’s a huge step in the right direction. Again, I want to thank my friend from California, Congressman Huffman for working with us together on this bipartisan legislation, and I want to thank Chairman DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves for working to help us include the manager’s amendment. So again, I support the manager’s amendment. I appreciate everybody’s cooperation on this. I yield back. “
Up to one-third of annual global seafood catch, as much as 56 billion pounds, is estimated to be a product of IUU fishing. These practices threaten food security, compromise the health of the oceans and fisheries, and undermine fishers and seafood businesses that play by the rules. Fishing operations that engage in human trafficking and forced labor are often the same ones that break the laws regulating seafood harvest. Labor violations include abuses at sea and within processing facilities, such as forced labor, child labor, human trafficking, withholding of pay, physical abuse, debt bondage, and more.
The United States is the largest seafood importer in the world, and despite efforts to deny illegally and unethically harvested seafood access to U.S. markets, a report by the U.S. International Trade Commission found nearly 11% of total U.S. seafood imports in 2019, worth $2.4 billion, were products of illegal or unreported fishing. The report also estimated that if IUU imports were prevented, U.S. fishers could increase their income by an estimated $60.8 million.
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