Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a hot topic at the 2015 SeaWeb Seafood Summit. The chief concern is the unfair advantage rule breakers gain, potentially creating a disincentive for those who want to obey the laws. Representatives from NOAA outlined the 15 objectives of the Presidential task force to combat IUU fishing in one of yesterday’s sessions.
So perhaps it’s no coincidence that NOAA today issued its 2015 Biennial Report to Congress highlighting U.S. findings and analyses of foreign IUU fishing activities. The report not only lists countries that have vessels cited for IUU violations and for bycatch of protected species and shark catch on the high seas, but it also lists countries who have made improvements since being cited in the 2013 report.
Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Nigeria, Nicaragua, Portugal were listed in the current report as having vessels engaged in IUU activity in 2013 and/or 2014. NOAA Fisheries will press each of these nations to address these activities and improve their fisheries management and enforcement practices relating to IUU fishing.
The 2015 report also notes that 10 nations identified as having vessels engaged in IUU in the previous 2013 Report to Congress have created or changed their management laws to prevent IUU, sanction the cited vessels and improving monitoring and enforcement. The 10 nations are: Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Spain, Tanzania, Venezuela. Mexico’s certification has been delay until this May because of bycatch of endangered sea turtles.
The U.S. has higher standards than many nations regarding IUU identification and enforcement. And it carries significant influence when pushing nations with vessels in violation to fix the problem. But there is one niggling detail the U.S. should address … and soon: the international treaty that officially governs IUU law.
Eleven nations, including the European Union counting as one, have ratified the treaty. The U.S. Senate has ratified it, but the necessary legislation actually authorizing U.S. involvement with the treaty has not yet passed. The treaty, commonly called the Port State Measures Agreement, needs 25 country ratifications to take full effect.
Congress should act quickly to pass the measure so the U.S. can stand on firm ground when holding other nations accountable for not effectively policing IUU violations.