Enforcement Efforts to Combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing

Special agents, enforcement officers, and enforcement support staff from NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement (OLE) routinely fight illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and the trade in IUU fish products.

OLE also provides foreign governments, organizations, and communities with training, tools, and information-sharing avenues they can use in addressing complex IUU fishing issues. A major part of this work is the technical assistance and training workshops OLE conducts.


Learn more about IUU fishing


IUU Training

June 2017: OLE led a training workshop on combating IUU fishing for 30 officers and inspectors from the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). The workshop took place in Manila; helping OLE host it was the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL). At the workshop, classroom presentations, tabletop exercises, and practical scenarios covered topics such as boarding foreign fishing vessels; conducting comprehensive fisheries inspections; port state measures; intelligence analysis; monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) tools and technologies; legal procedures; and investigative techniques to combat IUU fishing. The participants gained experience boarding and inspecting both purse seine and longline vessels, and developed a sample case package (including briefings and affidavits) that they presented to a Philippines prosecutor. Participants from BFAR and PCG gave positive feedback on the comprehensive training—and OLE and INL look forward to further work with the Philippines government. Read more about this 2-week training event.


April 2017: Two special agents from OLE and a foreign affairs specialist from NOAA Fisheries’ Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection (IASI) participated in Obangame Express 17 (OE17) in Ghana, Africa. OE17, a multi-national training event sponsored by the U.S. Africa Command, is designed to promote best practices in naval and at-sea enforcement operations. This was the first time a civilian agency was invited to Obangame. At OE17, OLE led port inspection and at-sea boarding exercises to show effective ways to detect and combat IUU fishing. OLE also shared best practices on writing investigative reports, interviewing, using technology such as the vessel monitoring system, and inspecting documentation—and on the value of inter-agency cooperation and sharing inspection results with partners in national and international law enforcement. Read more about this interagency training event in Ghana


IUU Investigations

October 2016: Between July and December 2011, Legacy Seafood Inc. contracted with a national grocery store chain to supply frozen-at-sea Icelandic cod fillets. Legacy supplied a repacking facility with about 122,328 pounds of Russian-caught frozen-at-sea codfish, worth over $750,000. Legacy then caused that Russian product to be shipped to the store chain—in interstate commerce—as a product of Iceland. In October 2016, Legacy pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor misbranding. The company was sentenced to pay $25,000 to the victim company.


Port State Measures

On June 5, 2016, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA) entered into force after being ratified by 29 countries, including the United States and the European Union. The PSMA sets minimum standards for exercising port state controls over foreign vessels seeking entry into ports, and over those vessels’ activities while in port. Implementing the PSMA also ensures compliance with Regional Fishery Management Organizations’ (RFMOs’) conservation and management measures. Another major provision of the PSMA is an emphasis on increased information sharing and communications among participating nations, relevant enforcement agencies, and relevant international organizations, such as RFMOs.


OLE is the main office responsible for enforcing the PSMA in the United States. We developed a domestic training program on implementing the agreement, as well as an international training program to offer technical help to our global partners. OLE’s domestic training was piloted during the summer of 2016 with cooperative enforcement partners in American Samoa and Guam. Learn more about the Port State Measures Agreement. 


PSMA Training

OLE held the first international PSMA training program—a regional workshop in Indonesia—in August 2016. Working with the U.S. Agency for International Development, OLE led discussions on implementing the PSMA, combating IUU fishing in Indonesia, and the role of PSMA in that fight. The training consisted of classroom lessons and vessel boardings with staged scenarios which set the stage for follow-on curriculum development and training by the Indonesian and U.S. governments for all port officials working in Indonesian ports. More than 75 people from various countries attended the workshop. Read more about this Indonesian training event.


PSMA Activities

In the first year of PSMA implementation, OLE reviewed 1,866 advance notices of arrival, conducted 147 related inspections, and found 29 violations.    



Indonesia: OLE continued to build enforcement capacity within the government of Indonesia, focusing on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the PSMA. In November 2015, an OLE special agent took part in a workshop on planning for effective enforcement in MPAs, part of a series of cooperative training workshops for fisheries enforcement officers in Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries. In late August 2016, a team of facilitators and support staff from OLE led a workshop in Manado and the Port of Bitung on the operational implementation of the PSMA.


West Africa: In July 2016, OLE sent a special agent and an enforcement officer to a West African Task Force fisheries enforcement workshop in Accra, Ghana, alongside representatives from NOAA’s General Counsel and the NOAA Fisheries IASI, in collaboration with the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea. A total of 38 participants from Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria attended. They discussed topics including fisheries intelligence, regional information sharing, MCS techniques, and developing investigative operations and cases leading to prosecution by the legal teams of each country.


Philippines: In February 2016, an OLE assistant director and an OLE intelligence analyst joined representatives from the government of the Philippines to hold a peer-to-peer exchange on a planned U.S.-Philippines Joint Assessment on the Trafficking of Marine Turtles. A follow-on enforcement workshop to include additional enforcement agencies from the Philippines is proposed for FY 2017.


Association of Southeast Asian Nations Trade and Environment: In November 2015, OLE participated in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Trade and Environmental Dialogue in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and provided presentations on IUU fishing and ways to combat the trade in IUU fish and fish products.


Caribbean Regional Wildlife Enforcement Network: In July 2016, representatives of 11 Caribbean nations, various U.S. government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and intergovernmental organizations participated in the first Caribbean Regional Wildlife Enforcement Network workshop in Nassau, Bahamas.


U.S.–Mexico Fisheries Bilateral: In September 2016, OLE joined representatives from the NOAA Fisheries IASI, NOAA General Counsel, U.S. Coast Guard, and Department of State in a bilateral fisheries meeting with Mexico. Discussion during the enforcement portion of the meeting focused on efforts to control IUU fishing activity and prevent illegal fishing incursions into the U.S. exclusive economic zone.


U.S.–E.U. Fisheries Bilateral: Members of OLE, other NOAA partners, and with the U.S. Coast Guard met with members of the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission during the week of April 18 in Brussels, Belgium, for the U.S.–E.U. IUU working group meeting.


International MCS Network’s Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop: Members of OLE and other NOAA offices attended the fifth Global Fisheries Enforcement Training Workshop in Auckland, New Zealand. The workshop promoted cooperation between enforcement authorities across national borders; built trust between MCS practitioners; and delivered information about the latest, most effective MCS technologies, programs, and strategies.


INTERPOL Fisheries Crime Working Group: During its annual meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, the Fisheries Crime Working Group discussed global operations dealing with transnational crime and IUU vessels.

INTERPOL International Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Conference: The second of these conferences was held in Singapore. Key topics included sustainable development goals, effective environmental compliance, enforcement, and capacity building.