National Ocean Council committee publishes illegal fishing action plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal committee published principles to determine what fish species are at risk of illegal fishing or seafood fraud, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report published on Oct. 30.

NOAA’s National Ocean Council Committee on IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud identified its policy for “determining seafood species at risk of IUU fishing and seafood fraud” and listed 13 fish species in danger of being brought to shore unethically.

Any fish caught where no conservation or management measures exist, not reported (or misreported) to relevant authorities or in violation of applicable laws is classified as IUU — illegal, unreported and unregulated — fishing.

Illegal fishing impacts recreational anglers; domestic and foreign regulations of fisheries often limit how many fish a recreational angler can catch.

NOC committee members established seven principles to help evaluate IUU fishing activity: enforcement capability; catch documentation scheme; complexity of the chain of custody and processing; species misrepresentation; mislabeling or other misrepresentation; history of violations; and, human health risks.

Several fish and seafood species were identified as at-risk of IUU fishing, including: abalone tuna; bluefin tuna; catfish; Pacific cod; Dungeness crab; grouper; Pacific halibut; lake or yellow Perch; lobster; mahi mahi; marlin; opah; red snapper; Chinook salmon; sea bass; shrimp; skipjack tuna; swordfish; tilapia; yellowfin tuna; and, wahoo.

“All species of fish can be susceptible to some risk of IUU fishing or seafood fraud due to the inherent complexities in the fishing industry and supply chain,” the Presidential Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud stated in a report published in conjunction with NOC’s Oct. 30 notice. “The species list has been developed to identify species for which the current risks of IUU fishing or seafood fraud warrant prioritization for the first phase of the traceability program.”

The report further explained how some groups engage in illegal fishing or seafood fraud.

“Entities that engage in IUU fishing circumvent conservation and management measures, avoid the operational costs associated with sustainable fishing practices, and may derive economic benefit from exceeding harvesting limits,” the task force’s report stated. “These entities undermine efforts to maintain harvests of managed stocks at sustainable levels and deprive scientists of data needed to develop recommendations on how to sustainably manage fisheries. Those who engage in IUU fishing practices are also unlikely to observe rules designed to protect the marine environment and its resources from the harmful effects of fishing activity.”

NOAA reported U.S. fishers landed almost 10 billion pounds of fish and shellfish in 2013, contributing about $5.5 billion to the economy.

“Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud undermine the sustainability of U.S. and global seafood stocks and negatively impact general ecosystem health,” NOAA stated in its Federal Register Notice. “IUU fishing and fraudulent seafood products distort legal markets and unfairly compete with the products of law-abiding fishers and seafood industries globally.”

The Presidential Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud was created March 15 and is co-chaired by the Departments of Commerce and State.

View the task force’s report here for more information.

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