Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, applauds today’s introduction by Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and John Rockefeller (D-WV) of a bill to implement the first binding international agreement to specifically combat illegal fishing. The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (Agreement), adopted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in November of 2009, would significantly strengthen U.S. efforts to prevent illegal fishing and keep mislabeled illegal product out of U.S. markets.
“Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing hurts our oceans and honest fishermen, and it undermines efforts to protect our oceans through responsible fisheries management. If they are ignoring fisheries laws, what other laws are they breaking?” said Beth Lowell, campaign director. Often, IUU fishers do not comply with safety measures, do not use legal fishing gear, and do not comply with regulations on quotas, fishing areas, closed seasons or prohibited species.
The Agreement would help keep illegal fish out of U.S. markets by establishing specific requirements for port entry. In particular, it specifies minimum standards for dockside inspections, requires that nations designate specific ports to which foreign vessels may seek entry and requires that nations share information about violators. If any vessel is known to have or is suspected of IUU fishing, a nation must deny that vessel port entry. The bill also expressly makes the mislabeling and misidentification of fish or fish products illegal.
This legislation is a good first step toward addressing illegal fishing, but more needs to be done. Two other pending bills, S. 50 and S. 52, also introduced by Senator Inouye, would complement the Port States Measure Agreement by fighting seafood fraud and illegal fishing. The Senate should pass these bills immediately.
The U.S. also needs to establish a seafood traceability system that will help identify illegally caught fish and keep them out of our markets. Seafood mislabeling hurts our oceans, honest fishermen and consumers by substituting one species for another, often allowing illegally-caught fish to cross our borders undetected. Only a robust system of traceability that provides information on our seafood’s journey from bait to plate will keep illegal fish out of the market and protect vulnerable ocean species.
For more information about seafood fraud and IUU fishing and Oceana’s efforts to address these problems, please visit www.Oceana.org.