Mexican fishermen stealing America’s fish: Illegal, unregulated fishing a huge problem

With Africa and the Middle East disintegrating into chaos, the U.S. economy tanking into a part-time job market and immigrants crossing America’s southern border unabated, caring about some foreign fishermen poaching American waters may seem like a low priority.

But it’s not. These thieves have been stealing from America for decades, driving up the price of seafood, shortening harvest seasons and forcing good, honest commercial fishermen out of business, U.S. officials say.

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Source: www.marinelink.com

When Mexican fishermen over-harvest their own waters, especially of the highly valuable red snapper, they move their operations to U.S. waters, depleting America’s stocks. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that Mexican fishermen illegally harvest up to 1 million pounds of Gulf red snapper each year, according to Gulf Coast News Today.

The poachers are also making off with shark, grouper and billfish, to name a few other sought-after species. And the problem isn’t confined to the Gulf of Mexico. The World Wildlife Fund reported:

One key dimension of the overfishing crisis is illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing. It occurs across all types of fisheries, within national and international waters, and small scale to large industrialized operations. Illegal fishing accounts for an estimated 20% of the world’s catch and as much as 50% in some fisheries. The costs of illegal fishing are significant, with the value of pirate fish products estimated at between $10-23.5 billion annually.

A proposal gaining traction in Congress hopes to end the problem.

Called the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015, bill HR 774 was introduced by U.S. Rep. Madeleine Z. Bordallo of Guam, a Democrat, but it enjoys wide bipartisan support. GOP co-sponsors include U.S. Reps. Don Young of Alaska, Robert Wittman of Virginia, Randy Weber of Texas and California’s Edward Royce and Duncan Hunter, according to Congress.gov.

Although not officially co-sponsors, GOP Reps. Blake Farenthold and Roger William, both of Texas, and David Jolly from Florida enthusiastically support the measure, according to the Gulf Coast Leadership Conference. The bill is also supported by industry leaders on the Gulf, Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Jolly, whose district includes Pinellas County, plans to tour the working waterfront at St. John’s Pass on Wednesday afternoon. He’ll be joined by Capt. Jason De La Cruz, president and CEO of the Wild Seafood Co.; Capt. Mark Hubbard, president and CEO of Hubbard’s Marina; Julio Fuentes, president of the Florida Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; William Ward, a board member of the Gulf Fishermen’s Association; Chad Wilbanks of the Gulf Coast Leadership Conference; and Brad Boney, a commissioner of the Ports of Galveston County in Texas.

HR 774 aims to increase penalties and sanctions against foreign, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishermen. The idea is to set the penalty high enough that poaching becomes unprofitable, its supporters say.

The bill also denies “port entry, access, and supplies to foreign fishing vessels that are known to be involved in illegal fishing,” according to the Gulf Coast Leadership Conference.

Watch Gulf Fishermen Association board member Will Ward discuss the importance of ending the poaching in this video:

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