What others say: Alaska delegation sponsors measure to combat pirate vessels

  • Monday, December 7, 2015 3:09pm
  • Opinion

In Interior Alaska, hundreds of miles from the ocean, it’s a safe bet most people aren’t concerned about pirates. But as a state, pirates — specifically pirate fishing vessels — are a source of great consternation. Each year, billions of dollars in illegally harvested fish appears on world markets, causing serious financial harm to places like Alaska, where fishing is strictly regulated and commercial operators play by the rules or face strong fines, sanctions and even potential jail time depending on the nature of their offenses. A new bill signed into law by President Barack Obama last month will bring international focus to the issue of pirate fishing — and doing the lifting in Congress was Alaska’s delegation.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, introduced the Senate’s version of the pirate fishing bill, which would ratify a 2009 international treaty related to the practice. She was joined by junior Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan as a sponsor, and Rep. Don Young was a sponsor of the house version of the bill.

The bill and treaty seek to create a master list of vessels participating in the commercial fishing trade around the world, barring port access for vessels identified as having trafficked in illegally caught fish. Like most international treaties, it only works if all the relevant nations get on board, and there’s been some movement in this direction already. As of late October, a dozen countries and the European Union had signed on — the U.S. now joins that list.

Pirate fishing has long been a problem in Alaska. A prominent recent example was the Bangun Perkasa, an unflagged fishing boat interdicted off the Aleutian Islands in 2011 carrying 30 tons of illegally caught squid and a sizable population of rats. Like many pirate fishing vessels, the Bangun Perkasa had been driftnetting — sweeping the ocean with a miles-long net, catching and killing marine species indiscriminately and tossing back unmarketable fish and other sea creatures. As you can imagine, vessels fishing this way cause an incredible amount not only of economic damage to a fishery but also environmental damage to the ecosystem. And there are plenty of Bangun Perkasas that don’t get caught before offloading their catches.

The economic damage to Alaska doesn’t stop at the illegally caught fish that find their way to market. Since pirate fishing vessels are almost always unflagged, it falls to those who catch them — in the case of the Bangun Perkasa, the U.S. government — to deal with the vessels, their catch and their crew. After getting rid of the Bangun Perkasa’s squid, exterminating its rats, sending its crew members back to China and Indonesia and contracting out the scrapping of the derelict vessel, direct costs related to the vessel ran to more than a million dollars.

With those costs added to the $10 billion to $23 billion negative impact on fisheries worldwide from pirate fishing and coupled with the environmental devastation the vessels wreak, Alaska’s motivation to act is clear, and the state’s Congressional delegation did well by shepherding the pirate fishing bill to passage.

The bill in itself won’t solve the pirate fishing issue — there are clear financial incentives for the illegal fishing operations and governments more inclined to look the other way than the U.S. — but it applies a focus and pressure on the vessels that is an excellent place to start stemming the damage caused by such operations.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,

Dec. 4

More in Opinion

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020 at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Break the cycle of failure, debt in 2022

Today, all Americans are coerced, embarrassed or otherwise influenced into one of two old political parties

A sign designates a vote center during the recent municipal election. The center offered a spot for voters to drop off ballots or fill a ballot out in person. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The failure of mail-in voting

The argument that mail-in balloting increases voter participation never impressed me

Charlie Franz.
Point of View: Election integrity is not anti-democratic

The federalization of elections by the Freedom to Vote Act infringes on the constitutional right of states to regulate elections.

Snow blows off Mt. Roberts high above the Thane avalanche chute, where an avalanche blew across the road during a major snowstorm. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
An Alaska winter of discontent

It’s been a hard winter throughout the state.

A Uncruise Adventures cruise ship, with a fleet of kayaks in the water behind it, in the Tongass National Forest. Uncruise, a boutique local cruise ship operator, has been vocal about the importance of the intact Tongass National Forest, or SeaBank, to its business. (Photo by Ben Hamilton/courtesy Salmon State)
Alaska Voices: The dividends paid by Southeast Alaska’s ‘Seabank’ are the state’s untold secrets

Southeast Alaska’s natural capital produces economic outputs from the seafood and visitor products industries worth several billion dollars a year

Opinion: The pulse of fealty

Let’s be honest. Trump’s demands go beyond his one stated condition.

Former Gov. Frank Murkowski speaks on a range of subjects during an interview with the Juneau Empire in May 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Alaska Voices: Permanent fund integrity in peril?

Alaskans need to be kept informed of what the trustees are doing with their money.

A cast member holds up a cue card in Soldotna High School’s production of "Annie" on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Is theater dead?

“It will not be an easy task, performing CPR on this theater, but imagine the joy that you could bring to the students.”

Bjørn Olson (Photo provided)
Point of View: Homer Drawdown moves forward with climate-change solutions

Two years ago, a small group of concerned citizens decided to use this book as a guiding document

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21 in Kenai, Alaska.
Voices of the Peninsula: Fight for democracy

When the Insurrection occurred on Jan. 6, 2021, it was a direct attack on our democratic rule of law.

Former Alaska legislator and gubernatorial candidate Les Gara is seen in this undated photo. (courtesy photo)
Alaska’s great oil giveway

We can do better than giving away billions in oil company subsidies