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Combating IUU Fishing

NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement has a robust and growing international program. As a representative of the United State federal government, OLE works with various international organizations in the protection and conservation of global marine resources. In addition to national laws, we enforce international laws, treaties, and agreements that the United States signs as they relate to areas under our jurisdiction. Much of the current international work focuses on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, capacity building and technical assistance. 


In June 2014, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum which called for the creation of a task force to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud, co-chaired by the Departments of State and Commerce and involving 12 federal agencies. In December 2014, the IUU Task Force identified 15 recommendations for the implementation of a comprehensive framework of integrated programs to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud. Those 15 recommendations were divided into four broad themes:

In March of 2015, the Task Force issued its Action Plan to implement the recommendations and the task force itself was dissolved; the work of the task force is now carried out by the National Ocean Council Committee on IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud (NOC Committee).

OLE and the IUU Task Force

NOAA was identified as the lead or co-lead agency for 10 of the 15 recommendations; within NOAA Fisheries, the Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) has been part of the working group for five of the task force recommendations and additionally served as a lead office for Recommendations 8 and 11. 

OLE served as as a cooperating office on Recommendation 1, which requests Congress to pass implementing legislation for the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) and for the Department of State to promote entry into force and full implementation of the PSMA. After the Agreement entered force on June 5, 2016, OLE became instrumental in advising and training partners on the operational standards outlined by the PSMA. Read more, here.

OLE coordinated with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as well as the Department of Justice (DOJ) to carry out Recommendation 8, which called for the creation of a strategy to optimize the collection, sharing, and analysis of information and resources to prevent IUU or fraudulently labeled seafood from entering U.S. commerce. In July 2015, the Recommendation 8 working group completed the major deliverables, which included the creation of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) inventory and the creation of sub-working groups to focus on information-sharing, joint operations, forensics, and coordination.

OLE worked with DOJ to lead Recommendation 11, which calls for federal agencies to work with state and local enforcement authorities to expand information sharing and develop tools that address illegal fishing and seafood fraud at the state and local level. By July 2015, the Recommendation 11 working group delivered all of its major deliverables, which included the prioritization of combating IUU fishing and seafood fraud under OLE’s Cooperative Enforcement Program and DOJ’s investigation and prosecution of cases.

Capacity Building

Related to the Task Force Recommendation 6, OLE provides capacity building and technical assistance to international partners and agencies through government to government interactions. Capacity building, for OLE, involves providing organizations and communities the tools, resources, information, and information sharing avenues to allow them to solve IUU issues, usually through technical assistance and training workshops. Through a key partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), OLE responds to requests for enforcement capacity building assistance in areas of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands to combat IUU fishing, wildlife trafficking, and to promote sustainable seafood practices.

OLE also works closely with the Department of State (DOS), DOS International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection, and other agencies to coordinate sustainable fisheries and wildlife trafficking assistance in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean.

Read more about our capacity building activities.

   Our Related Investigations:



   Our Partners in Combating IUU Fishing: