This bill would implement the South Pacific Fisheries Convention, which is a treaty that seeks to strengthen the role of the U.S. in managing the fisheries of the South Pacific.
The South Pacific Fisheries Convention was ratified by the Senate in 2014, and puts in place safeguards against overfishing in the South Pacific that aren’t covered by existing international fisheries agreements. The easternmost point of the convention area is the waters off the western coast of South America, while its westernmost point is near western Australia. The convention area’s northernmost point is south of Hawaii, and its southernmost point is the expanse of water between Cape Horn and southern New Zealand near Antarctica.
It would be illegal to violate provisions of the Convention by committing any of the following actions:
Fishing without a permit, or refusing to allow an inspection of a fishing vessel;
Impeding an officer during the search, or resisting arrest;
Transporting, selling, buying, possessing, or transferring fisheries resources taken in violation of the Convention;
Violating any fishing regulation adopted under this legislation;
Failing to provide accurate information about fish harvested and provided to processors;
Failing to make, keep, or furnish catch returns and statistical records.
An exclusive economic zone notification would go out to all fishing vessels from countries participating in the Convention when they enter U.S. territorial waters. This would allow the U.S. Coast Guard to determine their destination, and the circumstances surrounding their presence in U.S. waters. Such a vessel would be required to stow all gear used for fishing activities where it isn’t readily available to be used for fishing, and allow an inspection to occur if one is requested.
In order to enforce the Convention, the South Pacific Fisheries Commission would be established with the other participating nations. Three U.S. commissioners would be appointed by the president, including at least one who works for the Dept. of Commerce, the Dept. of State, or the U.S. Coast Guard.
An 11 member advisory committee would be appointed by the Secretary of Commerce to examine proposals, programs, investigations, reports, recommendations, and regulations put forward by the commissioners. Members of the committee could serve up to three consecutive two year terms. and would be unpaid.
Specific responsibilities would be delegated to the Secretaries of State and Commerce, who would respond to proposals, decisions, and rules produced by the commission. The Dept. of Commerce would develop and enforce regulations in cooperation with the South Pacific Fisheries Commission, and the Western Pacific Fishery Management Council.
U.S. territories — specifically the Northern Mariana Islands — would be empowered to be involved in the process of implementing the Convention to a similar degree that other member nation's territories participate.