Combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is a top priority for the United States. NOAA Fisheries is proud to be a leader in the nation’s comprehensive approach to this battle. It includes many government agencies working in concert to identify bad actors, suspect vessels, and ports that have no interest in protecting the integrity of the seafood supply. IUU fishing damages nations’ economies, threatens marine resources, and harms U.S. fishing fleets and consumers. Due to the inherent nature of IUU fishing, it is almost impossible to accurately quantify the full global economic impacts resulting from these activities. However, there is little disagreement that it is in the billions, or even tens of billions, of dollars each year.
The scope of IUU fishing can also be broad, occurring at various points throughout the world’s massive seafood supply chain. That means our efforts to combat IUU fishing must be multi-pronged. We work with U.S. and state agencies to promote compliance with import requirements that help prevent IUU fish and fish products from entering U.S. markets. We also work with foreign governments and regional fisheries management organizations to promote international cooperation to achieve effective, responsible marine stewardship and ensure sustainable fisheries management.
In 2018, NOAA Fisheries established the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program. SIMP mandates permitting, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements for importers of certain seafood products. It supports the identification of IUU fish and fish products and misrepresented seafood while complementing existing NOAA traceability programs for imported seafood products. The program requires documentation from the point of harvest to the point of entry into U.S. commerce for 13 seafood species. These species were identified as particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing and/or seafood fraud. SIMP seeks to trace seafood entering our domestic supply chain—deterring and combating IUU fishing and seafood fraud. Our continued implementation of SIMP includes:
Modernizing and integrating the technology system that supports SIMP
Focusing on the interplay between audits and enforcement
Making any necessary changes, both programmatic and regulatory, to more effectively implement the program
In addition, we work with other fishing nations to strengthen their enforcement and data collection programs aimed at detecting, deterring, and eliminating IUU fishing. This includes implementing measures to restrict port entry, and access to port services, for vessels on the IUU vessel lists of international fisheries organizations to which the United States belongs. NOAA is also a leader in analyzing foreign fishing activities on the high seas. Every two years, we issue a Report to Congress that identifies nations whose vessels have been identified as engaging in IUU fishing. We then work with those nations to correct the identified problems. We will release our next report in summer 2021.
Congress recently strengthened an essential component of the fight against IUU fishing: collaboration with our U.S. government colleagues in addressing IUU fishing. In 2019, Congress passed the Maritime Security and Fisheries Enforcement (SAFE) Act directing a unified government approach to address IUU fishing and related threats to maritime security. The new Interagency Working Group on IUU Fishing brings together 21 U.S. federal agencies to counter IUU fishing. Since its inaugural meeting in June 2020, the Working Group developed a work plan on an initial set of activities. It identified a framework for determining priority regions and priority flag states at high risk of IUU fishing. Under the SAFE Act, the U.S. Department of State and NOAA have also submitted a Report to Congress on Human Trafficking in the Seafood Supply Chain. The report contains recommendations for addressing this important issue. NOAA serves as chair of the Working Group for the first three years of a series of rotating terms, along with the U.S. Department of State and the Coast Guard.
Neutralizing IUU fishing and its impact on the seafood supply chain in the United States and globally is an immense, complex, and varied challenge. NOAA and our collaborating agencies and international partners are—and have been—seriously and substantially engaged in working to find solutions to this global problem.
Acting NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator