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Sen. Sullivan announces legislation targeting illegal foreign fishing operations during Kodiak visit

Fishing boats in Kodiak.
Fishing boats in Kodiak.

Sen. Dan Sullivan is introducing legislation that goes after illegal Chinese fishing operations. Sullivan announced the Fighting Foreign Illegal Seafood Harvest Act – also known as the FISH Act – on a visit to Kodiak Thursday.

Sullivan says Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, of Rhode Island, helped author the bill.

“This is a very bipartisan bill, and a very needed bill,” said Sullivan.

The FISH Act directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to compile a blacklist of foreign vessels that have engaged in unsanctioned fishing – and ban them from U.S. ports. It also beefs up the Coast Guard’s ability to inspect foreign ships. And it calls for more regular reports to Congress on illegal fishing activities.

The legislation cites all foreign ships, but Sullivan says it specifically addresses current transgressions by Chinese boats in international waters. He says it was drafted with input from NOAA and officials from the Coast Guard, and has broad support in Washington D.C.

“Senators who are very hawkish against China are focused on this, people who want to keep our fisheries strong and sustainable are focused on this. This unites all different kinds of stakeholder groups,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan and Sen. Lisa Murkowski were in Kodiak for a meeting with fisheries managers and officials from NOAA. Members of congress are currently on summer recess, and there is no timeline to vote on the bill.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated the bill was aimed at curbing illegal fishing off the coast of Alaska — it’s aimed at policing illegal operations on the high seas. KMXT regrets the error.