U.S. Government Task Force on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud
Addressing IUU fishing is a step toward ensuring a level playing field for law-abiding fishermen and seafood industries around the world. Interagency Task Force groups have been created to tackle this issue.
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud undermine the sustainability of national and global seafood stocks and negatively impact general ecosystem health. IUU fishing and fraudulent seafood products distort legal markets and unfairly compete with the products of law-abiding fishermen and seafood industries around the world.
On March 15, 2015, a federal government Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud—co-chaired by the United States Departments of Commerce and State and made up of a broad range of other federal agencies—took a historic step to address these issues and published an action plan for combating IUU.
The plan identifies 15 actions to strengthen enforcement; create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and nongovernmental organizations; and create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into U.S. commerce. The plan also highlights ways in which the U.S. will work with foreign partners to strengthen international governance, enhance cooperation, and build capacity to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud.
On June 17, 2014, The White House issued a presidential memorandum, Establishing a Comprehensive Framework to Combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Seafood Fraud. Among other actions, the memorandum established the interagency task force, which was directed to prepare “recommendations for the implementation of a comprehensive framework of integrated programs to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud that emphasizes areas of greatest need” within six months.
In August 2014, the task force initiated a public engagement process aimed at gaining broad input and expertise from key stakeholders and interest groups. The task force used this input to inform and advise its development of recommendations in compliance with the memorandum. The task force sought comments on topics of particular interest.
After reviewing stakeholder input, the task force released its recommendations on December 18, 2014. The task force also requested comments from stakeholders and interest groups to advise on how to most effectively implement the proposed recommendations.
The public engagement process also included various public meetings with task force representatives.
Action Plan Recommendations
- International Port State Measures
Work with Congress to pass implementing legislation for the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA). Direct the Secretary of State to promote entry into force and full implementation of the PSMA.
- International Best Practices
Direct the task force to develop, within 1 year (and refine as appropriate in subsequent years), best practices for catch documentation and data tracking; high seas boarding and inspection; monitoring, control, and surveillance measures (including observer programs, vessel tracking systems, authorized vessel lists); port state control; and compliance monitoring. Promote adoption of these best practices in each of the regional fishery management organizations of which the United States is a member.
- International Maritime Domain Awareness
Direct the Secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to include IUU fishing threat analysis and monitoring in U.S. and international efforts to increase overall maritime domain awareness.
- International Free Trade Agreements
Direct the U.S. Trade Representative to use existing Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and future FTAs to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud, including through enhanced cooperation with U.S. trading partners and commitments to enforce environmental and labor laws.
- International Fishery Subsidies
Direct the U.S. Trade Representative and the Secretaries of State and Commerce to pursue international commitments to eliminate fisheries subsidies that contribute to excess fishing capacity, overfishing, and IUU fishing by 2020.
- International Capacity Building
Direct the Secretaries of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, and State; the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development; and the Attorney General to coordinate with donors, multilateral institutions, and foreign governments and prioritize capacity building to sustainably manage fisheries and combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud.
- International Diplomatic Priority
Direct the Secretary of State to maintain combating IUU fishing and seafood fraud as a diplomatic priority to gain the support of senior officials in priority countries and enhance political will for these efforts.
- Enforcement—Information Sharing
Direct the task force members—including the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and the Interior—and the Attorney General to develop within 180 days a strategy with implementation deadlines to optimize the collection, sharing, and analysis of information and resources to prevent IUU or fraudulently labeled seafood from entering U.S. commerce. This strategy should include a plan to increase support and coordination across agencies for forensic analysis of seafood species and the corresponding collection, archiving, and analysis of related reference specimens. This strategy should also reflect efforts to increase coordination with state and local governments per Recommendation 11.
- Enforcement—Customs Mutual Assistance Agreements
Direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to leverage existing and future Customs Mutual Assistance Agreements to exchange relevant information and encourage foreign customs administrations to cooperate in combating IUU fishing and seafood fraud.
- Enforcement—Species Name and Code
Direct the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, with input from the Attorney General, to standardize and clarify rules on identifying the species, common name, and origin of seafood. Direct the Secretaries of Commerce and Homeland Security and the U.S. Trade Representative to work with the International Trade Commission to adjust U.S. tariff codes to enhance identification in trade of species subject to IUU fishing or seafood fraud accordingly. The agencies should aim to publish these revised rules and adjusted codes no later than 1 year after the adoption of this recommendation.
- Enforcement—State and Local
Direct the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security and the Attorney General to work with state and local enforcement authorities to expand information sharing and develop tools that address IUU fishing and seafood fraud at the state and local level.
- Enforcement—Enforcement Authorities
Work with Congress as necessary to broaden agency enforcement authorities to 1) search, inspect, and seize seafood, both at the point of entry into U.S. commerce (whether from foreign or domestic sources) and throughout the supply chain; and 2) pursue a full range of judicial enforcement options for trafficking and other violations related to IUU fishing and seafood fraud.
Direct the task force to establish a regular forum with harvesters, importers, dealers, retailers, processors, and nongovernmental organizations to enhance collaboration in combating IUU fishing and seafood fraud and to improve understanding of the levels and nature of IUU fishing and seafood fraud and related criminal activities.
- (and 15) Traceability Program
Direct the task force, with input from U.S. industry and other stakeholders, to identify and develop within 6 months a list of the types of information and operational standards needed for an effective seafood traceability program to combat seafood fraud and IUU seafood in U.S. commerce. Direct the task force to establish, within 18 months, the first phase of a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from point of harvest to entry into U.S. commerce.
In December 2019, a new interagency working group -- the U.S. Interagency Working Group on IUU Fishing --was created to provide a whole-of-government approach to counter IUU fishing and related threats to maritime security.