From the Editor: Tackling Illegal Fishing

In the June issue of Fishermen’s News, we ran a lengthy feature article on illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and how, for multiple reasons, such fishing is a leading global maritime security threat.

Well, as a follow up to that report, I’m happy to report this news: the United States is strengthening its commitment to combating IUU fishing. In late June, at the United Nations Ocean Conference in Portugal, the U.S. made a series of announcements that elevates the country’s commitment to combat IUU fishing and the labor abuses associated with it.

In conjunction with the announcements, President Biden signed memorandum addressing IUU fishing and related harmful fishing practices.

Among the measures that the Biden administration spells out in the memorandum are that the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom are launching an IUU Fishing Action Alliance aimed at increasing ambition and momentum in the fight against IUU fishing.

This includes a pledge to take action to improve the monitoring, control and surveillance of fisheries, increase transparency in fishing fleets and in the seafood market.

Also stated in the memo is that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is issuing a proposed rule to enhance and strengthen its ability to address IUU fishing activities and combat forced labor in the seafood supply chain.

Specifically, the rule will enhance NOAA’s ability to implement what’s called the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act.

The rule proposes to broaden the scope of activities that NOAA can consider when identifying nations that engage in IUU fishing to include fishing in waters under the jurisdiction of a nation, without the permission of that nation, or in violation of its laws and regulations.

Also, according to a White House statement, the Biden administration will address IUU fishing by increasing coordination with diverse stakeholders — public and private, foreign and domestic. 

“The United States Government will use the full range of existing conservation, labor, trade, economic, diplomatic, law enforcement, and national security authorities to address these challenges,” the June 27 statement reads in part.

In our IUU story a few months ago, Karen Robes Meeks reported on how Illegally harvested fish are often sold at under market value, but that globally IUU fishing can generate up to $23 billion a year in illegal profits. Needless to say, this hurts all the legitimate commercial fishermen who risk their health and wellbeing to make an honest living, not to mention the world’s aquatic ecosystem.

“IUU fishing is among the greatest threats to ocean health and is a significant cause of global overfishing, contributing to the collapse or decline of fisheries that are critical to the economic growth, food systems, and ecosystems of numerous countries around the world,” the White House said in a statement.

“Distant water fishing vessels, which engage in industrial-scale fishing operations on the high seas and in waters under other states’ jurisdictions, can be significant perpetrators of IUU fishing and related harmful fishing practices,” the statement continues. “IUU fishing often involves forced labor, human trafficking, and other crimes and human rights abuses. Left unchecked, IUU fishing and associated labor abuses undermine U.S. economic competitiveness, national security, fisheries sustainability, and the livelihoods and human rights of fishers around the world.”

It’s good to see that officials in the U.S. and abroad are taking IUU fishing seriously and are taking steps to try eliminating it.

Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at