Report on IUU Fishing, Bycatch and Shark Catch
NOAA Fisheries is committed to improving fisheries management practices, and addressing illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, bycatch and shark catch. Every two years, a report to Congress is issued on improving international fisheries management.
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing undermine the sustainable management of fisheries resources and disadvantages legal, sustainable fisheries. Bycatch can negatively affect the conservation of protected living marine resources. Nations that do not have regulatory programs in place to effectively reduce or mitigate bycatch of protected species caught in association with fisheries threaten the sustainability of those ecosystems or other transboundary resources shared with the United States.
The High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act directs the United States to improve international fisheries management and address IUU fishing and bycatch of protected living marine resources. It was amended in 2011 by the Shark Conservation Act to also improve the conservation of sharks domestically and internationally.
In a biennial report to Congress, NOAA identifies nations or entities whose fishing vessels have engaged in IUU fishing activities, and nations and entities having fishing activities and practices that result in bycatch of protected living marine resources, or shark catch beyond any national jurisdiction, where such nations have not adopted regulatory measures comparable to the United States. Once a nation or entity is identified, NOAA Fisheries enters into a two-year consultation period to press for necessary measures to address the identified issue. A positive certification is issued if the nation has provided evidence of actions that address the activities for which it was identified. A negative certification may result in denial of U.S. port access for fishing vessels of that nation and potential import restrictions on fish or fish products.
Current Port Restrictions Under the Moratorium Protection Act
NOAA Fisheries has announced port restrictions on all Mexican fishing vessels that fish in the Gulf of Mexico. Effective February 7, 2022, these vessels are prohibited from entering U.S. ports, and will be denied port access and services.
This action by the United States is a result of Mexico’s identification for IUU fishing in 2019 and subsequent negative certification in NOAA Fisheries’ 2021 Report to Congress on Improving International Fisheries for its continued failure to combat unauthorized fishing activities by small hulled vessels (called lanchas) in U.S. waters.
The United States is committed to working with the Government of Mexico to support its actions to address the issues identified in 2019 and 2021, and is ready to re-establish U.S. port privileges for Mexican fishing vessels operating in the Gulf of Mexico once actions are taken by Mexico.
Reports to Congress on Improving International Fisheries Management
For its report to Congress, NOAA Fisheries collects information on IUU fishing activities, high seas shark catch data, and bycatch data from a variety of sources, including stakeholders, regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs), and other publicly available data. Additionally, NOAA Fisheries conducts outreach to nations and entities requesting information about their regulations and management measures.
Three nations (Mexico, Ecuador, and the Russian Federation) that were identified in the 2017 Report for reported IUU fishing activities have since taken actions to remedy those activities which have resulted in a positive certification decision for each nation from the United States.
However, in the 2019 Report to Congress, Mexico and Ecuador are again identified for reported IUU fishing activities (occurring in 2016–2018). The Republic of Korea was identified for reported IUU fishing activities.
The United States will hold consultations with the identified nations to encourage them to take action to address these activities.
In April 2018, an Addendum to the 2017 Biennial Report to Congress was issued:
- NOAA Fisheries has worked with Mexico to address the actions cited—unauthorized fishing by Mexican vessels, known as lanchas, in the U.S. EEZ of the Gulf of Mexico and for overfishing of stocks shared with the United States.
- Based on Mexico’s prosecution of individuals and fishing cooperatives associated with unauthorized fishing in the U.S. EEZ and adoption of additional actions to address these incursions, NOAA Fisheries has issued a positive certification decision to Mexico.
- As Mexico was also identified for additional cases of IUU fishing in the 2017 report, failure to sustain its efforts to combat IUU fishing could result in another negative certification in NOAA’s 2019 Report to Congress.
The Shark/IUU Fishing Final Rule (2013) implements the international provisions of the Shark Conservation Act. This regulation specifies procedures for identifying and certifying nations whose vessels target sharks on the high seas. It also amends the definition of IUU fishing to help ensure a comprehensive approach to addressing unsustainable fisheries activities of greatest concern to the United States.
The IUU Fishing/Bycatch Final Rule (2011) establishes procedures for the identification and certification of nations whose vessels are engaged in IUU fishing or bycatch of protected living marine resources.
For more information on the international provisions of the MSRA and implementation of the Moratorium Protection Act, please contact Kent Laborde (email@example.com), Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection.