Today, as the nation’s top leaders in fishery management come together at the 2013 Managing Our Nation’s Fisheries Conference in Washington, D.C. to discuss science and sustainability, Oceana released a new report finding that illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing leads to seafood fraud and threatens fishing economies, seafood consumers and vulnerable marine species on a global scale. According to recent estimates, IUU fishing accounts for 20 percent of the global catch and contributes to economic losses of $10-23 billion, while also threatening 260 million jobs that depend on marine fisheries around the world.
“Similar to the illegal ivory trade, pirate fishing is decimating the ocean’s most vulnerable and valuable wildlife - we are losing the elephants of the sea to poachers,” said Oceana campaign director and senior scientist Margot Stiles. “By fishing illegally, including in national parks, and targeting endangered species with destructive gear, poachers provoke economic losses in the billions of dollars every year, undermining decades of conservation by more responsible fishermen.”
In February, Oceana released a study that found one-third of seafood tested across the country was mislabeled and not consistent with Food and Drug Administration guidelines. This new report follows up on Oceana’s findings by examining the underlying drivers that contribute to seafood fraud, including the global overexploitation of marine resources and the laundering of illegally caught fish in U.S. markets.
Most illegal fishermen focus on high-value, expensive species, where the profits gained far outweigh the minor fines and penalties if caught. The lack of regulation and weak enforcement of fisheries laws in many countries support these activities, which allow many illegal fish to enter countries like the U.S., where they are often mixed with legal product or mislabeled as entirely different species.
“Illegal fishing cheats seafood consumers and hurts honest fishermen and businesses that play by the rules,” said Oceana campaign director Beth Lowell. “If we want to fight pirate fishing, we need to be able to track our seafood supply from boat to plate so we can keep illegally caught fish out of our markets and off of our dinner plates.”
Congress has introduced several bills this year targeting IUU fishing and seafood fraud, including the Safety and Fraud Enforcement for Seafood (SAFE) Act, the International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act and the Pirate Fishing Elimination Act. Oceana urges policymakers to move these bills forward to provide the resources and tools to protect responsible fishermen, seafood consumers and the oceans.
To access Oceana’s full report, please visit www.oceana.org/stolenseafood.