WASHINGTON – Oceana, the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans, issued the following statement from Dr. Michael Hirshfield, chief scientist and senior vice president for North America, in response to today’s announcement by Dr. Jane Lubchenco, United States Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, and Maria Damanaki, European Union Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, of their signing of a historic agreement to combat the global problem of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing:
"Oceana applauds today’s announcement that the U.S. and E.U. are planning to combat pirate fishing worldwide by committing real resources towards enforcement. As leading fishing nations, the U.S. and E.U. members have an obligation to keep illegal fish out of the world market. If carried out, this agreement could significantly improve the declining state of the world’s oceans.
IUU fishing hurts our oceans and honest fishermen, and undermines every effort to protect our oceans through responsibly managed fisheries. Pirate fishers do not comply with safety measures, do not use legal fishing gear, do not follow fisheries management regulations, and do not comply with regulations on quotas, fishing areas, closed seasons or prohibited species.
The U.S. also needs to establish a seafood traceability system similar to what is already in place in the E.U. Passing legislation pending in the Senate that deals with illegal fishing and seafood fraud would be a great first step.”
Illegal fish typically come from vessels violating fisheries laws, regulations and international conventions that were formed to prevent overfishing, deter destructive fishing practices and protect areas and wildlife in need of conservation. Illegal fishing worldwide is estimated to be about one fifth of reported catches, reaching up to 37 percent in the hardest hit regions. The U.S. is one of the largest markets in the world for selling both legitimate and illegally caught seafood along with the E.U., Japan and China. The U.S. may also be an easy target for dumping illegal, poor quality or unpopular seafood because import controls, like a traceability system, are few and far between.
There are currently two bills pending in the U.S. Senate. S 52 is a bill that would strengthen U.S. efforts to stop IUU fishing, including making it illegal to mislabel seafood, and S 50 would coordinate government resources to fight seafood fraud.
For more information about IUU fishing and what Oceana is doing to stop it, please visit www.Oceana.org.