Senate approves treaties to regulate fishing.


On April 3, 2014, the Senate approved three new fishing treaties as well as an amendment to a fourth fishing treaty. These agreements seek to address the problem of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and to conserve and manage fisheries in the North Pacific, South Pacific, and Northwest Atlantic. (1) The approved treaties are the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (2) (Port State Measures Agreement); the Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North Pacific Ocean (3) (NPFC Convention); the Convention on the Conservation and Management of the High Seas Fishery Resources in the South Pacific Ocean (4) (SPRFMO Convention); and the Amendment to the Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries (5) (NAFO Amendment).

The Senate's approval of these treaties is noteworthy in part because it has approved only one other multilateral treaty since the beginning of the Obama administration. (6) The Senate did not attach any reservations to any of the treaties, but it did declare that the three treaties and amendment are not self-executing. (7) Implementing legislation has been proposed for each agreement, but none has yet been enacted. (8) Given the United States' practice of not submitting instruments of ratification for non-self-executing treaties until implementing legislation is enacted, (9) it is unclear when the United States will become a party to these agreements.

Port State Measures Agreement. When the treaties were discussed on the Senate floor, the Port State Measures Agreement received the most attention. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island emphasized the robust bipartisan support for the treaty's goal of combating IUU fishing, also known as "pirate fishing":

We have worked very hard in this caucus to find bipartisan common ground on issues that relate to the seas and to our oceans, and one of the areas we have worked on is the area that is described in the jargon as IUU fishing, which means illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. The better word for it, the clearer word for it, the more accurate word for it[,] is pirate fishing. These are fishermen around the world who go to sea and they fish above legal limits, they fish out of season, they fish for catches they are not allowed to catch, they fish in waters they are not allowed to fish in, and then they come to shore and market their illicit product. When they do that, they hurt legitimate fishermen and they hurt American fishermen in two ways. First of all, fish migrate around the globe. If they are knocked down, damaged, and caught illegally in other areas, then the American fishery for that same species is hurt. The second is that depresses the global price for fish. These people can flood the market with illegal fish. That drops the price through the law of supply and demand, and now our American fishermen--who are fishing lawfully, who are abiding by the catch limits, who are fishing in the right seasons and places--suffer a disadvantage in the pricing when their fish get to market. ... Pirate fishing losses have been estimated at between $10 billion and $24 billion every year. (10) The Port State Measures Agreement includes the following obligations to deter pirate fishing by restricting port entry to particular vessels and assisting developing states:

The Agreement requires Parties to designate ports to which foreign vessels may request entry and to require such vessels to provide...

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