Working to ensure a sustainable future for our oceans by combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing around the world.
Illegal fishing is a major threat to the sustainability of the world’s fisheries. Some estimates are that illegal and unreported fishing accounts for up to $23.5 billion worth of fish annually worldwide, and up to 20 percent of all of the wild marine fish caught globally. In some parts of the world, the situation is even more dire. For example, fisheries scientists estimate that illegal fishing accounts for up to 40 percent of fish caught in West Africa.
Pressure on the world’s fish stocks is at an all-time high. Fishing fleets utilize modern technology and massive vessels to fish in places that until recently were out of reach because they were too deep, remote, or dangerous to exploit.
Fleets now pursue and catch fish in virtually every part of the world’s ocean. Massive processing vessels—floating factories that process, freeze, and transport fish in huge quantities—allow fishing vessels to offload catch at sea and continue fishing with alarmingly little downtime. The result is what some call “the last buffalo hunt”—too many fishing vessels chasing a dwindling number of fish that have nowhere to hide.
Most industrial fishing operations act within the law, but some take to the seas fully intending to steal fish. They do this in various ways, including failing to report catch, using illegal fishing gear, fishing without licenses, and even painting new names on their vessels while at sea to avoid detection by authorities. And they do it wherever they think they can get away with it, both within the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of coastal states and on the high seas. In many cases, the theft is made easy by patchwork regulation of fishing areas and weak enforcement at sea and in ports.
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Efforts to end illegal fishing continue to gain momentum. Australia already has robust port controls, but the nation advanced this global fight this month by ratifying the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), an international treaty to stop illegally caught fish from entering the market. Read More
Project Eyes on the Seas, a joint initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.K.-based Satellite Applications Catapult, combines satellite monitoring of the oceans with other information, such as fishing-vessel databases and oceanographic data, to help authorities detect suspicious fishing activity far more efficiently than has been possible in the past— often in near-real time. Read More
The 89th meeting of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) in Ecuador ended July 3 with little progress on new conservation measures for threatened and depleted populations of tuna and sharks. This outcome is becoming a familiar theme. Read More