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IUU Fishing - Frequently Asked Questions

São Tomé and Príncipe fishing canoes. West African nations are heavily impacted by IUU fishing.

What is IUU fishing?

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing generally refers to fishing conducted in violation of national laws or internationally agreed conservation and management measures in effect in oceans around the world.

What are some examples of IUU fishing activities?

IUU fishing can include fishing without a license or quota for certain species, unauthorized transshipments to cargo vessels, failing to report catches or making false reports, keeping undersized fish or fish that are otherwise protected by regulations, fishing in closed areas or during closed seasons, and using prohibited fishing gear.

Who is most affected by IUU fishing?

IUU fishing poses a direct threat to food security and socio-economic stability in many parts of the world.  Developing countries are most at risk from IUU fishing. For instance, total catches in West Africa are estimated to be 40 percent higher than reported catches. Many of the crew on IUU fishing vessels are from poor and underdeveloped parts of the world, and they are often subjected to unsafe working conditions.

Dutch Harbor, Alaska, is the top U.S. port with the highest volume of catch in 2012.

What are the economic losses due to IUU fishing?

Due to the inherent nature of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, it is difficult to accurately quantify the full global economic impacts resulting from these activitiesHowever, there is little disagreement that it is in the billions, or even tens of billions, of dollars each year. Various studies over the years have assessed regional levels of IUU fishing and developed estimates of global losses, but such estimates are based on data that is now many years old. Work is currently underway through the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization to develop regional IUU estimate methodologies that can be regularly updated. Implementing the Action Plan’s recommendations will assist in getting a better handle on what the actual level of activity and impacts are so that they may be appropriately addressed.1

How does IUU fishing affect the seafood industry and U.S. consumers?

By dodging conservation and management measures, companies engaging in IUU fishing can cut corners and lower their operating costs. As a result, their illegally caught products provide unfair competition for law-abiding fishermen and seafood industries in the marketplace.

How much is at risk from the perspective of the U.S. economy?

U.S. consumers spent an estimated $82.6 billion for fishery products in 2012. By producing and marketing a variety of fishery products for domestic and foreign markets, the commercial marine fishing industry contributed $42 billion (in value added) to the U.S. Gross National Product.

IUU fishing vessel Taruman, carrying 143 tons of illegally harvested Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass). Photo Credit: Australian Customs Service.

What is NOAA doing to address the problem of IUU fishing?

Because the United States imports more than 90 percent of its seafood, we must ensure that this demand does not create incentives for illegal activity. Careful monitoring of imports is a key component of our efforts to prevent IUU fish from entering the U.S. market, allowing consumers to have confidence that the seafood they purchase was harvested legally and responsibly.  We work with other fishing nations to strengthen enforcement and data collection programs around the world. We have put measures in place to restrict port entry and access to port services to vessels included on the IUU lists of regional fishery management organizations with U.S. membership. In addition, U.S. legislation allows us to take action on our own. The Magnuson-Stevens  Reauthorization Act, which amends the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act, requires NOAA to identify countries that have fishing vessels engaged in IUU fishing activities. Once a nation has been identified, we consult with the nation to encourage appropriate corrective action. If the identified nation does not take appropriate action and receives a negative certification, imports of fisheries products may be prohibited from that nation. The Lacey Act also provides the United States with the authority to impose significant sanctions against individuals and companies engaged in trafficking illegally taken fish and wildlife.

1 Click here for publication source.