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New Law Empowers U.S. to Combat Illegal Fishing and Seafood Fraud and Promote the Sustainable Management of International Fisheries

November 06, 2015

Implements international agreements restricting port access for vessels involved with illegal fishing, promotes sustainable management of eastern Pacific fishery

President Obama has signed the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Enforcement Act, marking another critical step in the Administration’s efforts to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud.

The bi-partisan legislation, signed by the President yesterday, includes a number of provisions preventing illegally harvested fish from entering the United States, and supports efforts to achieve sustainable fisheries around the world. The U.S. will now join a global effort to ratify and implement the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), which will prevent vessels carrying fish caught illegally from entering U.S. ports and keep illegal product out of U.S. markets.

Implementation of the agreement was the first recommendation of the IUU Action Plan, released in March by the President’s Task Force on Combating IUU and Seafood Fraud, an interagency group co-chaired by the Departments of Commerce and State.

“Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing undermines both the economic and environmental sustainability of our nation’s fisheries,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., under secretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Combating IUU fishing and seafood fraud is critical to sustaining the resilience of our global ocean fisheries, to leveling the playing field for the United States fishing and seafood industries, and to protecting the United States’ reputation as a leader in sustainable seafood. Passage of this bill is a step in the right direction, and will help the United States advance its ongoing efforts to achieve sustainable fisheries.”

The United States now joins 13 other nations that have already ratified the PSMA, which will be legally binding once a total of 25 countries have ratified it.

“We lose billions of dollars globally each year to IUU fishing, which is often associated with other illegal activities such as human trafficking,” said Catherine Novelli, under secretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment. “We will work with partner nations around the world to ensure that 25 countries ratify the Port State Measures Agreement and allow it to enter into force. We are more than halfway there, and the U.S. is committed to getting this finalized as soon as possible. Together, we can stop illegal fish from entering ports around the world and ensure a healthy and bountiful ocean for future generations.”

The United States has already implemented most of the measures outlined in the PSMA domestically, and this formal ratification provides the United States additional leverage to encourage ratification and adoption of these measures by other countries so that it will apply to ports around the world.

In addition, the measure will allow the United States to ratify the Antigua Convention and fully participate in the work of the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, which manages tunas and other highly migratory species in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

The Task Force has also recommended strengthening domestic enforcement authorities to address illegal fish and fish products that have already entered the U.S. supply chain. Currently, U.S. fisheries law focuses on at-sea or dockside enforcement of domestic fishing operations and does not provide the tools needed to address imported seafood and fishing violations. As identified by the Task Force public comment process, these are crucial gaps in federal authorities that prevent agencies from monitoring all of the seafood supply chain and fully protecting law-abiding U.S. fishermen and consumers. The Administration looks forward to continuing to work with Congress on these essential domestic provisions.

More information about the Action Plan and Task Force recommendations can be found here.

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Last updated by NOAA Fisheries Public Affairs on September 08, 2021