Press Release

Senate Passes Bipartisan Bill to Crack Down on Illicit Fishing

in Program


June 27, 2019 


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

Senate Passes Bipartisan Bill to Crack Down on Illicit Fishing  

Maritime Security and Fisheries Enforcement (SAFE) Act Follows Stimson Report Recommendations  

Today, the Maritime SAFE Act, legislation to curb illegal fishing, promote a sustainable fishing economy, and prevent other types of illicit trade, passed the Senate as a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  

Illegal fishing activities are closely linked to transnational organized crime, trafficking, and piracy. The Maritime SAFE act 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

Sally Yozell, Director of Environmental Security at the Stimson Center, released this statement: 

“Illegal fishing activities are closely linked to important national security threats including transnational crime, human and drug trafficking, and piracy. We are thrilled that the Senate adopted our recommendation to put greater transparency at the forefront of combatting illegal fishing.  
Senators Wicker and Coons should be applauded for their work. We look forward to seeing these important security policies passed into law.”


Notable elements of the Maritime SAFE Act include: 

  • 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.  
  • Seafood transparency. The Maritime SAFE Act would increase transparency and traceability in the global seafood supply chain. 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. 

Background: 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 suite of environmental threats that have the potential to undermine national, regional, or global security. Her work focuses on ocean security, climate security and wildlife protection. 

Prior to joining Stimson, Yozell was a Senior Advisor to Secretary of State John Kerry where she provided advice and technical expertise to advance U.S. policies in the international arena related to ocean, climate, and wildlife protection. 

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