Hawaii fisheries may soon receive stronger protection from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing thanks to legislation that unanimously cleared the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

Sen. Brian Schatz, a Hawaii Democrat, along with Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both of Alaska, introduced legislation in May to fight “pirate fishing.” The House passed companion legislation in July.

“Currently, the world looks to the United States for leadership on how to manage fisheries,” Schatz said in a statement.

Senator Brian Schatz heads down the corridor basement on his way to the Capitol Subway system. 23 feb 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Sen. Brian Schatz, seen here heading down a Senate basement corridor after casting a vote, hopes to put an end to illegal fishing.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

“With this bill, we can assume a similar leadership role on the international problem of pirate fishing by taking strong action to prosecute wrongdoers. Hopefully other nations will follow our example to put an end to illegal fishing practices once and for all.”

Illegal fishing produces between 11 and 26 million tons of seafood annually, resulting in economic losses with a global value of between $10 billion and $23 billion, according to a release from Schatz’s office.

“IUU fishing for crab in Russia has had an adverse impact on Alaska crab fishermen by disrupting the market and lowering prices, and it is threatening the sustainability of the bigeye tuna that is the staple of Hawaii’s longline fishery,” the release says. “Last year, the Senate approved two treaties that protect Pacific fisheries used by Alaska and Hawaii by cutting down on IUU crimes.”

The bill, which gives more enforcement tools to NOAA and the Coast Guard, is headed to President Obama for his approval.

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