In response to biodiversity and climate crisis, the House Natural Resources Committee (HNRC) will deal with 16 bills Thursday aimed at helping reverse these disasters.
The audience will include bills that address global issues of wildlife trade and illegal fishing, both of which have huge impacts on species on our planet, undermine our resilience to climate change, and are linked to crime. transnational, including trafficking in human beings. Indeed, the direct exploitation of species, including fauna, is the second factor in the loss of terrestrial species. And illegal fishing practices are linked to the depletion of fish populations, bycatch of vulnerable species and damage to marine habitats and ecosystems, not to mention the associated forced labor practices. By passing bills that address these issues, the House Natural Resources Committee is pushing the United States to step up its efforts to reverse the biodiversity crisis and, in so doing, protect the very existence of humans.
Let’s start with illegal fishing
To truly ensure that fishing is sustainable and that marine ecosystems are healthy in the future, we must stop illegal fishing, also known as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. About a third of the world’s seafood harvest comes from IUU fishing practices, making sustainable fisheries management impossible. This is because illegal fishing operations do not follow fisheries management practices and laws, thus leading to overfishing. Illegal fishing has a darker human side: forced labor and human trafficking are common practices in the seafood industry, and IUU vessels are more likely to exploit their crews. If we are to fight ocean biodiversity and climate crises, stopping IUU fishing must be part of the conversation.
Unsustainable fishing has been the main driver of biodiversity loss in the ocean over the past 50 years. For the billions of people who depend on the oceans for food, scientists stress the critical importance of stopping IUU fishing and enforcing natural resource laws already in place.
Representative Jared Huffman (CA-2) presented the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act (RH 3075), which would address both of these issues with a common sense, whole-of-government approach. This bill calls on government agencies to integrate their work to end abuse of work and IUU fishing. The approach is necessary to ensure that the United States is no longer a major conduit for illegally and unethically harvested seafood.
The proposed law will allow the United States to more proactively identify and stop illegal and unethical seafood shipments by:
- Fill the loopholes in the United States’ traceability program, the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP), and extend it to all seafood species
- Require labor conditions and supply chain information (including information on transshipment, harvest locations and vessel ownership) for seafood imports
- Update of the electronic import control system
The legislation would also require and allow the United States to enforce the fight against IUU fishing more vigorously in producing countries.
The United States should never import illegally caught seafood and seafood harvested and produced by forced labor. Representative Huffman’s bill outlines a way forward to end these illegal practices and provides an opportunity for NOAA and the Biden administration to escalate. If passed, it will help make the United States an international leader in the global effort to end both illegal fishing and forced labor at sea.
Wildlife trade is just as problematic
As noted in several recent reports (see here and here), we are in the midst of an extinction crisis, with a million species threatened with annihilation, many of them within decades, without âtransformative changeâ. The wildlife trade – for a multitude of uses, including food, clothing, traditional medicines, and the pet trade – is one of the main threats, and the United States plays a huge role in this problem as one of the world’s major importers of wildlife. Between 2000 and 2012, the United States imported an average of 225 million live animals and 883 million wild animal specimens.
Several of the bills the HNRC will consider this week recognize this and seek to put an end to it. For example, Representative Ted Lieu (CA-33) Bear Protection Act (HR 2325) would prohibit the import, export and interstate trade in bear articles and products. And Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-3) Captive Primate Safety Act (RH 3135) would amend the Lacey Act to prohibit the importation, exportation and transportation of any live animal of any prohibited primate species.
Other bills the committee will consider fill critical funding gaps for international species conservation. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8) Global Amphibian Protection Act (RH 2026) would establish a fund to conserve highly threatened amphibian species, and Representative Huffman’s Critically Endangered Animals Conservation Act (HR 1569) would help fund the protection of species included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as endangered or critically endangered, among other vulnerable wildlife species.
Of course, these bills, which Congress will hopefully pass, are just the start for the United States in the face of biodiversity and climate crises. There are many other steps Congress and the Biden administration must take to make up for the past years of environmental destruction and chart a new course, including protecting special places, as outlined in the America the Beautiful campaign. , and by taking bold climate action by moving away from fossil fuels.