Press Release

New Bipartisan Bill to Crack Down on Illicit Fishing, Trade – Follows Recommendations from Stimson Center report

in Program


May 2, 2019


Caiti Goodman, 202.478.3437 (O), 202.361.0254 (C), [email protected]

New Bipartisan Bill to Crack Down on Illicit Fishing, Trade

Follows Recommendations from Stimson Center report

Today, Senators Roger Wicker and Chris Coons reintroduced the Maritime SAFE Act, legislation to curb illegal fishing, promote a sustainable fishing economy, and prevent other types of illicit trade.

The legislation adopts six recommendations made in the Stimson Center report, Casting a Wider Net: The Security Implications of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing. Read full report.

“This legislation would help level the playing field for honest fisherman and help governments around the world combat illicit activities. Illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing hurts local economies, undermines food security, and helps destabilize fragile governments. Time and again we have seen that illegal fishing activity occurs side by side with human trafficking and illegal arms trade. These problems have a broad impact on American and international security,” said Sally Yozell, Director of Environmental Security at the Stimson Center.

“This bill is an important step towards greater transparency at all levels of the fishing industry and the seafood supply chain, including enhancing implementation of existing traceability programs and increasing surveillance and enforcement. This is essential for economic and food security and to combat the illicit networks related to IUU fishing,” Yozell said.

Notable elements of the Maritime SAFE Act and Casting a Wider Net recommendations include:

  • Seafood transparency. The Maritime SAFE Act would increase transparency and traceability in the global seafood supply chain, including enhancing implementation of the Seafood Import Monitoring Program. Increased transparency and traceability combats IUU fishing by making monitoring and enforcement possible, blocking illicit products from entering the market.
  • Whole-of-Government Approach. By establishing an interagency working group on IUU fishing and seafood fraud, this Act will improve government coordination and cooperation to address the multi-sector impacts of IUU fishing.
  • Increasing capacity for monitoring and enforcement. Many countries affected by IUU fishing are unable to effectively monitor their waters, police illicit activity, or prosecute perpetrators because of their own limited capacity. The Maritime SAFE Act will increase US work with those states on anti-IUU efforts, making it an important tool for partner countries to increase their maritime security and dis-incentivize illegal practices.
  • Expanding shiprider agreements. Shiprider agreements can, for example, permit foreign law enforcement officers to participate in real-world training and education aboard U.S. Coast Guard vessels. This kind of bilateral engagement on maritime security issues is an important tool to train law enforcement officers to deter and enforce laws against IUU fishing. By calling for the implementation of new shiprider agreements focused on counter-IUU fishing, the Maritime SAFE Act will increase international engagement on this issue and bolster the transfer of expertise.
  • Implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA). The PSMA requires member states to verify that fish entering their ports were legally caught. Building capacity and enhancing implementation of the PSMA will make it more difficult for IUU fishing vessels to sell their illicit catches, reducing the profit incentive for illegal fishing.

About Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing: IUU is detrimental to the sustainable management of fisheries resources, undercuts law-abiding fishing operations, and is closely linked to transnational organized crime, trafficking, and piracy. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 90 percent of global fish stocks are fully or over-exploited and depleted, and estimates suggest that 20 to 50 percent of the global fish catch are illegally caught, never reported, mislabeled, or harvested from unregulated waters. As fishery resources are depleted world-wide, IUU fishing will reduce food security, harm the  livelihoods for local fishing communities, and increase the chances of national and regional political in affected countries.

The Stimson Center’s Environmental Security program explores the array of environmental threats, both human and natural, that have the potential to undermine national, regional, or global security.

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.

Prior to joining Stimson, Yozell was a Senior Advisor to Secretary of State, John Kerry and the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment.

Read Full Bio.


The Stimson Center is a nonpartisan policy research center working to solve the world’s greatest threats to security and prosperity.

 # # #

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Media Inquiries

Contact Caitlin Goodman at [email protected] or 202-478-3437.

Our main line is  202-223-5956.

Choose Your Subscription Topics
* indicates required
I'm interested in...
38 North: News and Analysis on North Korea
South Asian Voices