Enforcement Efforts to Combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing
Special agents, enforcement officers, and enforcement support staff from NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement routinely fight illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and the trade in IUU fish products.
The United States is one of the world’s leading destinations for globally harvested seafood. Estimates indicate that more than 80 percent of the seafood consumed annually in the United States is imported. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement’s mission includes ensuring that the seafood products being sold in American markets, whether domestically caught or imported, are legally harvested so that honest fishermen have a fair market in which to compete. The OLE International Program plays a key role in this mission by combating IUU fishing, fishing-related activities, and trade in IUU fish and fish products. This requires a multi-faceted approach that includes:
- Monitoring imports into the United States, as well as seafood products in global trade.
- Partnering with other federal and state law enforcement agencies to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud throughout the United States.
- Engagement in multilateral and bilateral discussions with international partners to create enforceable provisions to combat IUU fishing and develop cooperation and collaboration in detecting, deterring, and interdicting IUU fishing activity and trade.
- Supporting broad and effective global implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement.
- Technical assistance to global partners, with emphasis on major exporters of seafood to the United States, to assist in developing the fisheries enforcement capacity to detect and interdict IUU fish and fish products before they enter the global market.
- Education of the public, consumers, and international audiences about the impacts of IUU fishing and fishing-related activities.
Implementing the Port State Measures Agreement
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.
Counter-IUU Fishing Technical Assistance and Capacity Building
The scope of OLE’s international engagements also includes providing foreign governments, organizations, and communities with the tools, resources, and information sharing avenues to allow them to address complex IUU fishing issues. This is usually accomplished through providing technical assistance and training workshops.
July/August 2021: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked hard to pivot our capacity-building efforts to a virtual landscape. Recently, OLE completed its first Virtual Port State Measures Inspector Training Program in partnership with the Royal Kingdom of Thailand’s Department of Fisheries and the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center.
January 2020: OLE, in partnership with the Ministry of Production of Peru (PRODUCE) and with support from the U.S. Embassy, led a Port State Measures Inspector Training in Lima, Peru in January 2020. Through classroom sessions and practical vessel boarding exercises, fisheries inspectors and other relevant authorized law enforcement personnel gained hands-on familiarity with the requirements of the PSMA, resources available to verify fisheries records, and methods to detect IUU fishing and crimes associated with IUU fishing, including evidence collection, case documentation, interview techniques, report writing, and information sharing.
Fall 2019: OLE, with support from the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia, assisted in facilitating a regional Port State Measures Inspector Training workshop with multiple partners that was hosted by the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center. In total, nine SEAFDEC members participated—Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—as well as India and Sri Lanka. In addition, OLE conducted our first Inspector Training-of-Trainers Workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia and provided bilateral technical support to Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
2017-2020: The United States funded a multi-year project under the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Umbrella Program to support the implementation of the PSMA and other instruments to combat IUU fishing in The Bahamas, Guyana, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago. Through this project, OLE and NOAA’s General Counsel Enforcement Section (GCES) provide technical assistance to strengthen national policy and legislative frameworks along with operational capacity for coordinated Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) operations in these countries.
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.
August 2016: OLE piloted its first ever international PSMA training program in Manado, Indonesia. 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 at the Port of Bitung 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 Indonesian agencies attended the workshop. Read more about this Indonesian training event.