Cantwell backs bills supporting coastal economy

By:  Aberdeen Daily World – Staff Writer
Source: Aberdeen Daily World

Three bills geared toward supporting and protecting the state’s coastal economy passed through the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday. The bills are co-sponsored by Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell and are aimed at improving water quality and strengthening fishing law enforcement.

“These key bills would support Washington state’s $10.8 billion coastal economy and the 165,000 jobs that depend on it,” Cantwell said in a press release. “Two bills will help step up law enforcement against illegal fishing boats that have harmed Washington state fishing jobs. Bering Sea fishermen — many of whom are based in Washington — have lost $560 million from the illegal crab trade.”

The first bill would support the state’s shellfish industry by researching and identifying blooms of harmful algae and “dead zones” — areas of the ocean with low oxygen levels. A statement released by Cantwell’s office said this information would allow scientists to predict when algae blooms will happen and identify ways to stop them.

The committee also passed the Pirate Fishing Elimination Act, which is aimed at preventing illegal fishing. The bill would increase the number of dockside fishing vessel inspections and stop illegal fishing vessels from entering U.S. ports to offload their seafood.

A third bill, the International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act, would strengthen the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration’s and the U.S. Coast Guard’s authority to enforce international and U.S. fishing laws. It would also increase penalties for illegal fishing vessels, as well as companies and individuals who repeatedly break fishing laws.