Illegal fishing is a global concern that plunders natural resources, takes business from law-abiding fishing fleets, cheats fish-dependent coastal communities, and skews scientific assessments that measure the state of fisheries. On March 16, a White House task force issued a final plan to help address each of those problems.
With commercial fishing supporting 1 million U.S. jobs, President Barack Obama created the Presidential Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud last summer. Its plan commits the U.S. government to 15 specific measures intended to shore up fisheries monitoring and enforcement in U.S. waters and beyond.
Among the actions included in its report, the task force said the government will:
- Seek ratification by the 14 additional countries—including the United States—needed for final adoption of the Port State Measures Agreement. The agreement, which comes into force after approval by 25 countries, aims to prevent illegally caught fish from coming ashore through commercial ports. The Senate voted unanimously last April to ratify the agreement, and Congress must now pass implementing legislation.
- Coordinate with foreign governments and Interpol to strengthen monitoring of fishing vessels and enforcement efforts.
- Ensure that federal agencies better share resources and gather and analyze information that will fight illegal fishing and prevent mislabeled seafood—such as a less-expensive fish being sold as a more costly one—from entering the U.S. market.
- Enhance enforcement measures for U.S. authorities to inspect seafood throughout the supply chain and seize what is suspected of being caught illegally.
- Create a program to track and verify the transaction history of seafood products to prevent illegally sourced fish from entering the marketplace.
The task force includes representation from 14 government agencies, including the Commerce Department, the Defense Department, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. It is critical that the task force members continue to show strong leadership and turn the final plan into action, said Tony Long, who leads Pew’s work to end illegal fishing.
“It is heartening to see that the task force plan recognizes illegal fishing as a critical global problem that threatens U.S. businesses and deceives consumers,” Long said. “We are excited to partner with and support the U.S. government in our mutual quest to end illegal fishing. By doing so, we will help law-abiding fishermen, the environment, and communities around the world that depend on sustainable, legal fisheries.”