Department of Defense, U.S. National Security Community Caught off Guard by Growing Illegal Fishing Threat

February 6, 2018

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jim Baird, [email protected]; 202.478.3413

The Department of Defense and U.S. national security community have not appropriately prioritized addressing the growing threat posed by illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center. The report — Casting a Wider Net: The Security Implications of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing — finds that IUU fishing presents an expanding range of national security threats, contributing to geopolitical tensions in the South China Sea, maritime piracy off the horn of Africa, and transnational organized crime in Central and South America.
 
“There is a good chance that the fish you eat today has been caught illegally,” said report co-author Sally Yozell, Director of Stimson’s Environmental Security program. “The marketplace for illegal fishing is lucrative, generating upwards of $36.4 billion annually in black-market profits, and accounts for at least one out of every five fish caught globally. Those funds fuel networks that pose threats to U.S. national security interests — from well-heeled piracy outfits to transnational drug and human trafficking rings. More can be done to combat this threat.”
 
IUU fishing can be a contributing factor to destabilization in many developing coastal nations. The illicit industry undermines fisheries management, leading to economic losses and critical taxable revenue, and presents serious food insecurity concerns. Moreover, the nations most preyed upon are often the same countries least able to fight against IUU fishing and its spillover effects on local communities, adding another potential pathway to civil discontent. All told, IUU fishing is flying under the radar – accumulating to potential downward spirals of destabilization and insecurity in strategic regions around the world. Traditionally viewed as an environmental and conservation challenge, IUU fishing increasingly poses significant threats to national, regional, and global security — affecting individuals and communities through its associated human rights and other criminal abuses.
 
The report identifies ten steps for the U.S. government and the national security community to take to mitigate future risk and better address the global security challenges posed by IUU fishing, including:

  • Increasing engagement of Combatant Commands (COCOMS),

  • Expanding shiprider agreements between the U.S. and foreign countries,

  • Encouraging countries to ratify, implement, and enforce the Port State Measures Agreement,

  • Dedicating resources to increase monitoring and enforcement capacities,

  • Advocating for comprehensive foreign domestic fisheries regulations and catch reporting requirements,

  • Encouraging greater transparency of the fishing industry,

  • Mandating use of Vessel Tracking Systems (VTS) to track fishing fleets,

  • Increasing data and information collection and sharing,

  • Increasing dialogue and partnerships between the U.S. government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

 “Coastal nations find themselves at the epicenter of this non-traditional security threat. By addressing IUU fishing in its totality – the U.S. government can be better poised to address their growing security consequences,” said Yozell. “Without a whole-of-government strategy to address IUU fishing – the identified security challenges only stand to increase.”
 
The Stimson Center is a nonpartisan policy research center working to solve the world’s greatest threats to security and prosperity.


Read the Fact Sheet from the Report