Obama announces global fishing enforcement, new sanctuaries

President Obama this morning unveiled a package of global initiatives aimed at cracking down on illegal fishing. He also announced two new marine sanctuaries, and they are not in Alaska.

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“Building on our actions to keep illegally caught fish from coming into U.S. markets, today we’re announcing new partnerships to empower developing nations to fight illegal fishing in their own waters,” Obama said, in a video address to an oceans conference in Chile.

Among the new initiatives is Sea Scout, a banner for international cooperation in the use of technology to improve detection and coordinate enforcement. The administration says it plans to make new tools available, like light sensors on satellites to help other countries detect suspicious night fishing.

Secretary of State John Kerry said at the oceans conference that the world must double down to stop illegal fishing.

“It has grown into at least a $10 billion a year industry – illegal fishing,” Kerry said. “And the only sustainable fisheries are legal fisheries.  Enforcing the law is essential for the survival of our fisheries, in order to ensure fairness, and to keep organized criminal groups out of the ocean.”

President Obama also announced that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is taking steps to create two new marine sanctuaries. They are far from Alaska – one is in the Potomac River, in Maryland, the other off Wisconsin, in Lake Michigan. They are not especially controversial in those states. Obama also sidestepped conflict by going through NOAA, rather than issuing a presidential decree to declare national monuments. But for those who hope or fear that Obama will create a marine national monument in Alaska, take note: Obama says he’s not done.

He said in his video address that “… in the coming months, I will look for opportunities to protect even more of our waters.”

Alaska Congressman Don Young last week predicted Obama will create an Aleutian national monument, which Young opposes. Young disputes the president has any power to create marine monuments under the Antiquities Act.