This past weekend marked the fourth observance of the International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing. This day was declared by the United Nations to raise awareness about IUU fishing and its threat to the sustainability of the world’s ocean resources. NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement plays a pivotal role in tackling IUU fishing every day.
Combating IUU fishing is a top priority for the United States. IUU fishing damages economies, threatens marine resources, and harms U.S. fishing fleets and consumers. Through partnerships and collaborative efforts, we address IUU fishing by:
- Conducting investigations targeting IUU fishing activities
- Enforcing domestic laws and international treaties to ensure that fisheries resources are conserved and protected
- Facilitating government-to-government exchanges to provide capacity, technical assistance, and training workshops that strengthen fisheries enforcement aimed at restricting IUU fishing activities
Training Inspectors, Increasing Compliance
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement has helped countries enhance their fisheries enforcement capacities to combat IUU fishing for more than a decade.
Illegal fishers count on poor communication among relevant authorities and seek to take advantage of gaps in interagency coordination. They rely on global enforcement entities to not share information with one another—allowing them to continue to carry out their lucrative behavior.
To address this problem, the Port State Measures Agreement was created. It is the first binding international agreement specifically designed to target IUU fishing and is an important tool for us. Currently, there are 69 parties to the Agreement, covering 93 countries and more than half of the world’s coastal nations.
The Agreement works to prevent vessels carrying IUU fish and fish products from landing their catch at ports around the world. It sets minimum standards for:
- Screening foreign-flagged fishing and fishing support vessels prior to entering port
- Conducting dockside inspections of foreign-flagged fishing and fishing support vessels
- Training of inspectors and the reporting of inspections
We have developed domestic and international Port State Measures Inspector Training Programs that provide technical assistance to global partners. These trainings—the first of their kind—help reduce the amount of IUU fish and fish products being landed and exported from nations around the world. They focus on the operational implementation of the Agreement to help global partners better detect and intercept IUU fish and fish products before they enter global commerce.
Building partnerships to combat IUU fishing is a top priority. It is critically important to the success of the Agreement that all parties have the support and tools needed to implement its provisions. We continue to help partners with legislative framework and policy support, in addition to fisheries inspector and officer training. These trainings enhance partners’ monitoring, control, and surveillance systems to combat IUU fishing and the trade in IUU fish products. They also help implement the operational requirements of the Agreement and promote increased cooperation and information sharing between interagency partners.
Training and Technical Assistance Highlights
NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement supports partners across the Asia-Pacific region and is expanding into Latin America and the Caribbean. This expansion follows the recent successes of our Inspector Training in Lima, Peru in January 2020, which brought together participants from Ecuador and Peru.
In Southeast Asia, we conducted our first Inspector Training-of-Trainers Workshop in Jakarta, Indonesia in fall 2019. We also co-facilitated a regional Port State Measures Inspector Training workshop for the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center with support from the USAID Regional Development Mission for Asia. 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, we provided technical support to Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
We conducted joint monitoring, control, and surveillance assessments in The Bahamas, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, in 2019 and 2020. These assessments were supported through a project with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. We have since held multiple follow-up technical exchanges.
Lastly, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked hard to pivot capacity-building efforts to a virtual landscape. In the near future, we will launch the first virtual edition of the Training Program. Through this innovative programming, we continue the fight against IUU fishing at home and abroad.