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U.S. and Russia team up to nab fish pirates on the high seas

Staff writer |
Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing accounts for a fifth of the global catch, according to the Global Ocean Commission, valued up to $25 billion a year.

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In September 2015, at an Intergovernmental Consultative Committee meeting in Portland, Oregon, the U.S. and Russia signed a bilateral agreement to combat IUU fishing by coordinating multiple government agencies.

The pact, years in the making, has strong support from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska regions as well as environmental groups.

That will mean a big break for Bering Sea king crab, a fishery being whacked by the pirates.

The U.S. has been slow to impose IUU trade regulations that require things like seafood traceability and certificates of origin. The primary U.S. law to discourage imports of illegally caught fish is the Lacey Act, which is intended to stop imports and sales of products that “are extracted in violation of the source country’s conservation provisions or international law.”

But the Lacey Act does not include any proactive mechanisms for detecting illegal fish products as they enter the U.S. and can only be used to sanction violators after they’ve been caught.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-Russia Intergovernmental Committee will now begin developing a framework for implementation of the new IUU agreement to curtail pirate catches of crab, pollock, cod, salmon and other species.

An international Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) that would cut off markets from fish pirates is languishing in Congress after gaining Senate approval a year ago. The measure would strengthen port inspections and toughen standards for foreign flagged vessels to prevent illegal products from entering world markets.

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