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An Urgent Need to Stop Illegal Fishing

Four of eight confiscated Vietnamese fishing boats are destroyed in Mempawah Regency, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. (File)

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a major environmental, economic and even humanitarian problem.

An Urgent Need to Stop Illegal Fishing
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Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, or IUU fishing, is a major environmental, economic and even humanitarian problem. It is “Modern piracy of the sea,” said Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry. “In the past half century, we have lost half of our marine populations and 90 percent of large fish like tuna and swordfish.”

“Globally, when we measure stocks, we are down to roughly five percent of the bluefin tuna population in the Pacific. And many of those that are left are too young to reproduce. So, it's possible … that this could be one of the last generations of their species unless we change our behavior."

IUU fishing undermines efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks. Poachers and illegal fishers pay no taxes or license fees, so they can sell their fish cheaper, undercutting legal fishers. They ignore fishing limits, fishing bans, and protected areas that are meant to maintain fish populations at sustainable levels, and too often use destructive fishing methods that damage coral reefs and other fragile structures.

“Countries in Asia alone … operate distant water fleets of more than 3000 factory trawlers. Mass produced fish catch. And many of the crew are trafficked, human beings abused and barely paid wages for their work with no standards, no protections. High seas of the world … produce narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, guns and smuggling, and a lawlessness that has permitted rape and murder.”

Speaking at the Our Ocean Conference in mid-April, John Kerry said that “It is imperative that we grow the outrage, that we expose what is happening.”

“Those factory ships patrol little ships out at night. They sit on the edge of the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone, or waters under national jurisdiction.) They go into the sea. They rob the local community blind and then go out and sell the fish, undercutting honest enterprises.”

“There're always going to be malefactors, people who are willing to break the law for some gain. But if there's no enforcement, there are going to be a lot more of it,” said John Kerry.

“We need to begin to bring together our Coast Guard, our military, our enforcement mechanism, the digital capacity we have in the world today to measure and know what people are doing and put it to work in the interests of humanity.”