As part of its overall efforts to ensure that the US fishing industry isn’t undermined by unsustainable or illegal activities, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has submitted a Congressionally mandated report identifying ten nations whose fishing vessels engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in 2011 or 2012, or had ineffective measures to prevent the unintended catch of protected species in 2012.
Independent experts have estimated economic losses worldwide from IUU fishing to be between 10 billion and 23 billion dollars annually.
“NOAA international fisheries work is critical to the economic viability of US fishing communities and the protection of US jobs,” said Russell Smith, NOAA deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries.
“This is about levelling the playing field for fishermen around the world, and IUU fishing represents one of the biggest threats to the US fishing industry. Seafood is a global business, and US fishermen following the rules should not have to compete with those using illegal or unsustainable fishing practices”.
The US will soon start consultations with each of the 10 nations — Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Italy, Mexico, Panama, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Tanzania, and Venezuela — to encourage them to take action to address IUU fishing and by-catch by their fishermen.
All ten nations identified in this year’s report had vessels that did not comply in 2011 and/or 2012 with conservation and management measures required under a regional fishery management organisation to which the US is a party. Mexico was also identified for ineffective management of the by-catch of North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles, which travel between Japan and Mexico through Hawaiian waters, and are endangered under the US Endangered Species Act.
All six of the nations identified in the previous 2011 Biennial Report to Congress (Colombia, Ecuador, Italy, Panama, Portugal, and Venezuela) have addressed the instances by taking strong actions like sanctioning vessels, adopting or amending laws and regulations, or improving monitoring and enforcement. Each of these six nations now has a positive certification for their 2011 identified activities.
However, a nation positively certified for action taken since the last report may be listed again as engaged in IUU fishing if new issues are identified, as is the case in this report.
If a nation fails to take appropriate action to address the instances of illegal fishing or by-catch activities described in the report, that nation’s fishing vessels may be denied entry into US ports, and imports of certain fish or fish products from that nation into the US may be prohibited.
NOAA has also issued final regulations to implement the international provisions of the Shark Conservation Act. These regulations specify the procedures for identifying and certifying nations whose vessels catch sharks on the high seas. They also amend the definition of IUU fishing to help ensure a comprehensive approach to addressing unsustainable fisheries activities of greatest concern to the US. (FIS/MP).-