Conservation & Science

Administration advances efforts to fight pirate fishing and protect the ocean

This week, the Obama Administration pressed ahead on two key ocean conservation initiatives to step up the global fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing (often referred to as “pirate” or “black market” fishing) and enhance conservation of ocean wildlife – both critical steps to  restore ocean health.

The White House National Ocean Council Committee on IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud (NOC Committee) shared details of the Administration’s proposal for a U.S. system to track and trace seafood that could make it easier to block illegally harvested or produced seafood and prevent seafood fraud – including the principles for determining risk and some of the priority seafood they  may target for attention. The public can offer feedback about the proposed principles for determining risk and species for the traceability program during a 30-day comment period that opens on August 3.

“It’s really exciting to see rapid progress on a U.S. seafood traceability program,” says Margaret Spring, the Aquarium’s vice president of conservation and science. “Establishing a comprehensive and effective traceability program is a critical step in the global fight against IUU fishing and piracy. It’s an important tool to document the legality and sustainability of seafood entering the U.S. market – especially because most seafood sold here is imported.

“The U.S. sets a high conservation bar domestically – in both fishery management and ocean protection  ̶  and has a strong record of compliance with international conservation and management measures,” she adds. “Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t always play by the same rules. That’s a bad thing when 90% of the seafood we eat is imported, and at least half of that is from aquaculture operations outside of the United States. It’s challenging to advance ocean conservation when the playing field is not level, and we appreciate the Administration’s willingness to include a broad range of representative species  ̶  including those produced from aquaculture operations  ̶  in the proposed traceability program.”

In another positive development, the Administration – led by U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman  ̶  moved closer to finalizing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations that include ocean conservation trade measures that could deter IUU fishing, prohibit fishing subsidies, promote the conservation of at-risk marine species such as sharks and turtles, and combat wildlife trafficking, among other provisions.

“The Monterey Bay Aquarium supports including strong ocean conservation measures in all international trade agreements, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Spring says. “The interconnected nature of wildlife and ecosystems here in the Pacific and across the global ocean, and the market demands that are depleting fisheries and marine life on a worldwide scale, make international cooperation on market-based enforcement and compliance measures absolutely essential. We appreciate efforts by the U.S. Trade Representative to leverage trade agreements to fight these serious and growing challenges to ocean health, particularly IUU fishing.

“Linking trade measures and agreements to important conservation and social goals can create incentives for nations to adopt and enforce compliance tools, such as the Port State Measures Agreement and other efforts to combat IUU fishing and human trafficking at the global scale. Additionally, it’s important for trade agreements to incorporate provisions that end damaging fishing subsidies, promote sustainable fisheries management and encourage conservation of highly threatened ocean wildlife that are critical to the long-term health of our ocean ecosystems and economies.

“The Administration’s coordinated, multijurisdictional approach to address IUU fishing and other unsustainable practices will advance ocean conservation and ensure that future generations can rely on benefits the ocean provides,” she adds. “We look forward hearing more about the specific provisions of the TPP agreement as the negotiations conclude this week.”

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