NOAA is proposing new measures to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities and forced labor in the seafood supply chain.
The proposed changes are part of a rulemaking process that will include a public comment period after these proposed changes are published in the Federal Register.
NOAA’s proposal broadens the scope of activities that can be considered under the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act when identifying nations for IUU fishing, including pervasive and persistent fishing activities in waters under the jurisdiction of a nation, without authorization or in violation of that nation’s laws.
In addition, fishing activities in waters beyond any national jurisdiction that involve the use of forced labor may be considered by NOAA in identifying nations for IUU fishing under the act.
NOAA is also seeking to expand the information foreign fishing vessels must submit when requesting entry to U.S. ports in order to fully implement the Port State Measures Agreement, an international pact that seeks to prevent IUU fishing through adoption and implementation of effective port state measures as a means of ensuring long-term conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources.
The agreement is to be applied by countries in their capacities as port states to foreign-flagged vessels seeking entry to, or are in, a country’s port. Since all fish must come to port to enter into trade, preventing vessels carrying illegally harvested fish from accessing ports could be an effective way to prevent and deter IUU fishing.
The agreement also requires action against vessels engaged in supportive activities such as refueling or transshipping fish from IUU fishing vessels at sea.
Janet Coit, acting assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator, said that “IUU fishing undermines sustainable fisheries and healthy ocean ecosystems, threatens economic security and natural resources critical to global food security, and puts law-abiding fishers and seafood producers in the U.S. and abroad at a disadvantage.”
“NOAA is committed,” he continued, “to strengthening the suite of tools we use to combat all forms of IUU fishing and counter the use of forced labor in the seafood supply chain.”
The international ocean advocacy group Oceana said that a national security memorandum issued by President Biden to combat IUU fishing represents real progress in battling IUU fishing, but that more needs to be done. Biden’s issuance of the memorandum on Monday, June 27, which coincided with the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, directs NOAA to expand the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to include some additional species, but falls short from requiring the program to apply to all seafood imports.
Until the U.S. holds all seafood imports to the same standards as U.S.-caught fish, illegally sourced seafood will continue to be sold alongside legal catch, said Oceana’s Beth Lowell, vice president for Oceana for the United States.