US - The US fishing industry is calling on Congress to stop illegal fishing and protect the livelihoods of fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico.
Congressman David Jolly recently joined fishermen and coastal business representatives on a walking tour to discuss the economic impacts of illegal fishing in Florida.
Mr Jolly said: "Illegal fishing is a direct threat to the livelihoods of thousands of hardworking Americans along the Gulf coast and we must do more to protect our coastal economies, our coastal businesses, and our fishermen."
Commercial and recreational fisheries are an economic engine in the Gulf of Mexico, providing jobs, tourism, tax revenue and sustainable seafood.
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Gulf of Mexico's commercial and recreational fishing industries support hundreds of thousands of jobs and contributed more than $30 billion annually to the region's economy in 2012.
"Fishermen in the United States have made great sacrifices to rebuild and maintain fish populations in the Gulf of Mexico," said Captain Jason De La Cruz, owner/operator of Wild Seafood on John's Pass and board member of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders' Alliance.
"Foreign pirates know that, so they're sneaking into our waters to steal our fish, which undercuts our conservation efforts and detracts from fishing-related businesses around the Gulf.
"It is important for our federal legislators to know that the playing field is not level in the Gulf and our fishermen are being undercut by this problem of foreign illegal fishing."
The US Coast Guard estimates that Mexican boats make over 1,100 incursions into US waters every year, illegally taking upwards of 760,000 pounds of red snapper alone. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has also linked pirate fishing fleets to drug and migrant smuggling around the world.
Under current law, those who get caught face confiscation of their boat and repatriation to Mexico.
Globally, illegal and unreported fishing accounts for up to $23.5 billion worth of wild-caught marine fish, or around one-in-five fish taken from seas.
Chad Wilbanks, Chairman of the Gulf Coast Leadership Conference, urged action from Congress and said: "Foreign fishing boats are illegally poaching our well-managed fisheries and it will continue unless Congress takes action to pass legislation that will act as a deterrent and strengthen law enforcement protocols."
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