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Illegal Fishing: Not in Our Ports

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Liberian fishery observer from NOAA program helps Liberia apprehend alleged illegal fishing vessel

Liberian Artisanel vessels returning from fishingFresh from a training program for Liberian fishery observers run by NOAA and its West African partners, a graduate of the program found himself working aboard a trawler that he believed was  breaking Liberia’s laws by fishing in near shore waters reserved for local fishermen. More…

October 2011: NOAA takes possession of IUU vessel seized off Alaskan coast

In October 2011, the U.S. Coast Guard transferred possession of an illegal fishing vessel, the Bangun Perkasa, to NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement Saturday, shortly after the vessel came to port in Dutch Harbor. After it was determined to be a stateless vessel, the ship was seized by the Coast Guard for high-seas drift net fishing more than 2,600 miles south west of Kodiak, Alaska. Once the investigation of the Bangun Perkasa's fishing activity is completed, NOAA will forward its findings to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

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

  • Monitoring of imports is a key part of NOAA efforts, so consumers can have confidence that the seafood they purchase was harvested legally.
  • The United States works with other fishing nations to strengthen enforcement and data collection programs around the world.
  • The Secretary of Commerce identifies countries that have fishing vessels engaged in IUU activities. Through a consultation process, additional information is gathered to support a positive or negative certification. In the latter case, trade sanctions may be recommended to the President to restrict imports of the seafood products associated with the IUU activity.

2011 Port State Measures Agreement and Legislation

Illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing, commonly referred to as “IUU fishing” or “pirate fishing”, is a global problem that threatens ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. Since the United States imports more than 80 percent of its seafood, NOAA Fisheries is working to ensure that high demand for imported seafood does not create incentives for illegal fishing activity. One way to combat this problem is to close the world’s ports to IUU vessels and keep their illegal catch from entering the market. On December 12, 2011, new legislation focused on keeping U.S. ports clear of IUU fisheries products was introduced.

News and Announcements

December 12, 2011: Legislation will protect U.S. fishermen from unfair competition

A bill drafted by NOAA and introduced in Congress today will work to prevent pirate fishing vessels from entering U.S. ports to offload their illegally caught seafood. If passed, the Pirate Fishing Elimination Act, which is sponsored by Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, implements an international agreement that, will benefit U.S. fishermen, seafood buyers, and consumers by keeping illegal seafood out of global trade. More…

Senator Inouye (Hawaii) Press Release
Fact Sheet: Not in Our Ports (pdf)

About the Bill
Draft Bill (pdf)
Transmittal Letter to Congress (pdf)
Section by Section Analysis (pdf)
Statement of Purpose and Need (pdf)

September 7, 2011: U.S., European Union to strengthen cooperation to combat illegal fishing

NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco and Maria Damanaki, European Union Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, will sign a historic statement today pledging bilateral cooperation to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, known as IUU fishing—a first for the longstanding partnership between the U.S. and the E.U. on fisheries management. More...

IUU Fact Sheet
Lubchenco Signing Ceremony Remarks
Lubchenco Press Club Remarks
US/EU Joint Statement on IUU Fishing

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the extent of global concern about IUU fishing?

Experts estimate total value of economic losses from IUU fishing range from $10 billion to $23.5 billion annually, representing between 11 and 26 million tons.

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 seafood industries in the marketplace.

What are some examples of these illegal fishing activities?

Illegal activities 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 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.

Links and Resources:
NOAA Office of Law Enforcement
US Coast Guard
US State Department
National Plan of Action to Deter IUU (report in pdf format)
International Monitoring Control and Surveillance
The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer
UN Food and Agricuture OrganizationThe previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer
Stop Illegal Fishing (Africa Union sponsored)The previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer
Environmental Justice FoundationThe previous link is a link to Non-Federal government web site. Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer