Access to U.S. seafood market at stake for some countries
FRISCO— In a new report to Congress, federal fisheries biologists fingered six countries as still sanctioning pirate fishing. Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nigeria, Nicaragua, and Portugal could all lose certifications from the U.S. because they aren’t doing enough to stop illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.
Violations include fishing in restricted areas, discarding tuna, misreported catch, and improper handling of turtle entanglement. NOAA Fisheries will work with each of the cited nations to address these activities and improve their fisheries management and enforcement practices.
If the nation does not take sufficient action and does not receive a positive certification in the next biennial report, the U.S. may prohibit the import of fisheries products from that nation and deny port privileges to their fishing vessels.
The violations undermine efforts to sustainably manage and rebuild fisheries, and creates unfair market competition for fishermen playing by the rules, like those in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“As one of the largest importers of seafood in the world, the United States has a global responsibility and economic duty to ensure that the fish we import is caught sustainably and legally,” said NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan. “Tackling this challenge will require sustained collaboration between industry, conservation groups, and government.” Sullivan said at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in New Orleans.
The new report also highlights 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.
“The United States is committed to working with all nations 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 NOAA 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.”
In addition to undermining international fisheries efforts, IUU fishing can also devastate fish populations and their productive marine habitats, threatening global food security and economic stability. Global losses attributable to IUU fishing have been estimated to be between $10 billion and $23 billion annually, undermining the ability to sustainably manage fisheries as well as economic opportunities for U.S. 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.
At the State Department’s Our Ocean conference in June 2014, the White House announced a Presidential Task Force on IUU fishing, co-chaired by the departments of state and commerce and made up of a broad range of other federal agencies.
The Task Force, which was was directed to report to the President within six months with “recommendations for the implementation of a comprehensive framework of integrated programs to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud that emphasizes areas of greatest need,” made 15 recommendations in December.