Press Release

Senate Finds IUU Fishing Valued at Tens of Billions:

in Program

Legislation Proposes Whole of Government Approach to Combat IUU


For Immediate Release
Contact: Audel Shokohzadeh, [email protected], 202-478-3419
August 28, 2018
Washington, DC – To combat the growing threat from Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduce legislation – the Maritime Security and Fisheries Enforcement (SAFE) Act –  to create an interagency working group addressing the national, economic, environmental, and food security challenges posed by IUU fishing.

“IUU fishing is complex with many moving pieces, and no one federal agency can combat it alone. To be successful it will take a whole of government approach,” said Director of Stimson’s Environmental Security program, Sally Yozell. “The Maritime SAFE Act establishes an integrated government approach.”

IUU fishing threatens food, environmental, national, and economic security around the world. It is estimated that 20 to 50 percent of the global fish catch is either illegally caught, mislabeled, never reported, or from a fishery without any management regime. Illegal profits from IUU fishing are known to fund illicit trafficking networks, fuel piracy and transnational organized crime, which pose threats to U.S. national security interests. Furthermore, the depletion of fish stocks harms ecosystems, local fishers, and the food security of local populations. The spillover effects on local communities can create civil discontent and hinder economic growth, especially in developing coastal nations.

“When the head of household can’t feed their family because they lack jobs or food, they can be lured into criminal activity, open to civil unrest, or worse ripe for joining terrorist groups,” said Yozell. 

A Stimson report — Casting a Wider Net: The Security Implications of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing — provided numerous recommendations on how the U.S. and its partners can combat IUU fishing. One of these recommendations was that the U.S. government should pursue a whole of government approach to combat IUU fishing. Other recommendations from the report incorporated in the Maritime SAFE Act include increasing transparency in the global seafood supply chain through traceability programs; increasing fishing data collection and sharing across governments; expanding the use of Vessel Tracking Systems on fishing and transshipment vessels; expanding ship-rider agreements; and developing capacity-building measures with nations that are willing but unable to combat IUU.

“The nations most preyed upon for IUU fishing are also those nations least able to fight back. Working with other nations to build capacities and share information will protect U.S. national security interests and promote global security,” said Yozell.

The legislation values IUU fishing activities in the tens of billion annually. While the United States has some of the strongest fisheries management in the world, law-abiding fishers face competition from the IUU fishing industry. The Maritime SAFE Act helps level the playing field for law-abiding fishers, not only in the United States, but across the globe.

“Law-abiding U.S. fishermen and women should not have to compete with illegal products entering the U.S.,” remarked Yozell.

The Maritime SAFE Act additionally unites agencies across the U.S. government to combat IUU fishing. The chairs of the group include representatives from the State Department, the United States Coast Guard and NOAA. The working group comprises of 22 government entities including the Department of Defense, U.S. Navy, USAID, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Treasury.

“As one of the world’s largest importers of fish, the U.S. needs to take serious and collaborative action to combat IUU fishing and prevent illegally-caught fish from entering the domestic seafood market. By addressing IUU fishing in its totality, the U.S. government can be better poised to address IUU fishing’s growing security impacts,” said Yozell.
The Stimson Center is a nonpartisan policy research center working to protect people, preserve the planet, and promote security and prosperity.

Sally Yozell is a senior fellow and director of the Environmental Security program at the Stimson Center. Yozell’s research examines the links between environmental crime and global security issues — with a focus on combatting Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and wildlife trafficking; identifying innovative technologies to fight IUU fishing in Marine Protected Areas; and tracking transnational organized crime as well as natural resources theft.

A fact-sheet on IUU fishing, that summarized the major findings of Casting a Wider Net: The Security Implications of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing can be foundhere.


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