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Combating IUU Fishing in World Fisheries

The ocean is vast, and monitoring it to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities is a big challenge. To tackle an issue as far-reaching and complex as IUU fishing, a comprehensive global approach is essential. The United States is at the forefront of developing and implementing solutions to combating IUU fishing. 


The term IUU fishing includes many activities. Fishing is considered illegal if it breaks fishery laws of the nation with authority over the vessel or over the fishing area, or if it violates international fishing agreements. Examples include fishing in prohibited areas or using illegal gear. Examples of unreported and unregulated fishing activities are fishing in unregulated waters or from vessels that are not actively managed by the flag state, or not reporting catches to national or international authorities with monitoring responsibilities.

The losses from IUU fishing have a monumental impact on all nations. The inherent nature of IUU fishing makes it difficult to accurately quantify the full global economic impacts resulting from these activities. But there is little disagreement that the loss is in the billions, or even tens of billions, of dollars each year, in addition to its harm to fish populations.

NOAA's Approach

IUU fishing may occur at several points in the seafood supply chain—from the country of origin to its arrival at a U.S. port. A big challenge has been working with countries who have insufficient resources for patrols at sea and remote surveillance, and who often lack sufficient regulations, oversight, or inspections at ports. The goal of our international fisheries work to coordinate with nations across the globe to effectively address the issue.

Capacity Building

We build strategic partnerships with other nations, particularly with developing countries. The goal is to promote sustainable and responsible management of fisheries and other relevant marine resources at the national, regional, and global levels. Our capacity building involves providing organizations and communities the tools, resources, information, and information sharing avenues to allow them to solve IUU fishing issues. This is usually through technical assistance and training workshops.

Learn more about capacity building

Port State Measures Agreement

The Port States Measure Agreement is an effective example of how international maritime collaboration can have an impact. States apply the agreement by prohibiting foreign vessels suspected of engaging in IUU fishing from entering their ports and landing their catches. The agreement discourages illicit vessels from operating while simultaneously blocking IUU fishery products from reaching our markets.

Learn more about the Port State Measures Agreement

Vessel Tracking

The Global Record provides a single access point for information on vessels used for fishing and fishing-related activities. It gives countries a comprehensive and updated public database with core information about these vessels’ identities and operations and the nations that authorize the vessels. Working with our international partners, NOAA Fisheries has been a key supporter of the launch and development of Global Record.

Learn more about vessel tracking

International Cooperation

Governments and regional fisheries management organizations put regulations and monitoring systems in place to combat IUU fishing. NOAA Fisheries participates in various international fisheries management organizations that promote international cooperation to achieve effective, responsible marine stewardship and ensure sustainable fisheries management.

Learn more about international fisheries organizations

Nation Identification

The United States identifies nations for IUU fishing activities, and/or bycatch of protected living marine resources or shark catch on the high seas for nations that do not have regulatory measures comparable to the United States in a biennial Report to Congress.

Learn more about nation identification 

Seafood Traceability 

The U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program is a risk-based traceability program requiring the U.S. importer of record to provide and report key data on thirteen imported fish and fish products. These products are identified as vulnerable to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and/or seafood fraud. Data must be reported from the point of harvest to the point of entry into U.S. commerce.

Learn more about the Seafood Import Monitoring Program

As a global leader, the United States has both the opportunity and responsibility to advance sustainable conservation and management practices around the globe. Our work in combating IUU fishing stands at the forefront of this global challenge.

Learn more about NOAA Fisheries’ work in the international fisheries arena


Understanding Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing

IUU fishing is a global problem threatening ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries. Learn more about IUU fishing and NOAA’s role in combating these activities.