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NOAA to work with 6 nations to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing

Ten previously identified nations take corrective actions against IUU fishing


NOAA continues to be a global leader in addressing illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Today, the Agency released its 2015 Biennial Report to Congress highlighting U.S. findings and analyses of foreign IUU fishing activities and of bycatch of protected species and shark catch on the high seas where nations do not have a regulatory program comparable to the United States.

Six nations—Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Portugal—were identified in the 2015 Report as having vessels engaged in IUU activity. On behalf of the United States, NOAA Fisheries will engage in consultations with each of the nations to press for corrective action to address these activities, and improve their fisheries management and enforcement practices relating to IUU fishing. If sufficient action is not taken, and the nation does not receive a positive certification in the next Biennial Report, prohibitions on the importation of certain fisheries products into the United States and the denial of port privileges for fishing vessels of that nation are applicable.

Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans & Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, noted that “As one of the largest importers of seafood in the world, the United States has a global responsibility and an economic duty to ensure that the fish we import is caught sustainably and legally.  The President and NOAA are committed to doing our part to working with these nations to encourage their compliance, and we will continue to work with our partners to detect and combat illegal practices.”

Credit: Australian Customs Service

The 2013 Report also identified ten nations—Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Spain, Tanzania, Venezuela—whose vessels engaged in IUU fishing activities. Over the last two years, the U.S. Government consulted with these nations and it was determined that each took appropriate action through the adoption of new laws and regulations, or amending existing ones, sanctioning the vessels, improving monitoring and enforcement, and/or challenging the basis of the identification of individual vessels resulting in a positive certification, meaning that no further action is required.

No countries were identified for bycatch of protected living marine resources or for shark catch on the high seas in the 2015 Biennial Report. However, Mexico was identified in the 2013 Biennial Report to Congress for a lack of management measures for mitigating bycatch of North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles in the gillnet fishery in the Gulf of Ulloa, Baja California Sur. Mexico has made meaningful progress in developing a regulatory program to address this issue. NOAA Fisheries will continue to consult with Mexico moving forward and will delay the certification decision until May 2015.

“The United States is committed to working bilaterally and multilaterally to combat illegal fishing and to ensure the effective management of bycatch of protected species, and shark catch on the high seas,” said Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries. “We are encouraged by the positive steps these nations took to address IUU fishing and will continue to explore all avenues to combat IUU activity on a global scale.”

IUU fishing undermines international efforts to sustainably manage and rebuild fisheries and creates unfair market competition for fishermen who adhere to strict conservation measures, like those in the United States. IUU fishing can also devastate fish populations and their productive marine habitats, threatening food security and economic stability on a global scale. Independent experts have estimated economic losses worldwide from IUU fishing to be between $10 billion and $23 billion annually, undermining economic opportunities for US fishermen.

The report is a requirement of the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act, as amended by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act and the Shark Conservation Act.