World Fisheries Day is celebrated every November to draw attention to the big business of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Also known as IUU fishing, every year it rakes in some 10 billion globally.
Such fishing undermines efforts to conserve and manage our fish stocks. Too often, illegal fishermen use harmful fishing practices and equipment, damaging fragile marine ecosystems and vulnerable species such as coral reefs, turtles, and seabirds and reduce the natural productivity of the fisheries. Poachers and illegal fishermen take fish that could be caught and sold by local fishermen. They pay no taxes or license fees, so they can sell their fish cheaper, undercutting legal fishermen. In this way, they reduce the productivity and income of legitimate fishers, threatening food security and economic stability in many parts of the world.
And they ignore fishing limits, fishing bans and protected areas that are meant to maintain fish populations at sustainable levels, and don’t report their catches to be counted in management schemes. Indeed, large-scale IUU fishing operations are the main reason why more than half of the world’s major fishing grounds have been depleted.
One of the ways we can stop illegal fishing is to deny illegal fishermen access to markets. In early November President Barack Obama signed into law, the “Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act,” which denies illegal fishing vessels access to our ports and port services, and so prevents illegally caught fish from entering legitimate markets.
The next step is to continue coordinating with other countries that are taking similar steps, and join the global effort to ratify and implement the Port State Measures Agreement, an international measure to keep IUU fishermen and their illegal product out of all markets.
“The passage of this legislation is a critical step forward, but our fight against IUU fishing doesn’t stop here,” said Secretary of State John Kerry.
But no single nation can police the entire sea, so the United States will begin to implement Sea Scout, an initiative aimed at enhancing global coordination, information sharing, and enforcement on illegal fishing across the oceans, to help ensure that not a bit of it is beyond the law, said Secretary of State Kerry.
“Working together, we can safeguard a healthy ocean – and its bountiful resources – for future generations.”