Ending Illegal Fishing is Crucial to Ensure a Healthy Ocean

TrawlerBy Susan Jackson and Michele Kuruc

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry brought together some of the world’s leading thinkers to chart a path for securing the future of our planet’s oceans and the communities and economies they support. Leaders from more than 80 countries delved into the most pressing issues facing our oceans, including marine pollution, climate change and unsustainable fisheries.

While the discussions were vibrant, one of the biggest announcements was made by President Barack Obama as he announced a new initiative to address illegal fishing. Through a government-led strategy, federal agencies — along with industry, NGOs and other key stakeholders — will work together to build a framework that ensures seafood products can be traced from “bait to plate.” This is a critical step by the U.S. to combat illegally caught fish from reaching U.S. markets and ending up on dinner tables and on store shelves across the country.

One common theme that was presented throughout the “Our Ocean” conference was the role of cooperation and the need to work together, across governments, industry and with NGOs to address this shared problem.

To this end, some industry leaders are already rising to meet this challenge. Companies working with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, for example, have all made public commitments to combat illegal fishing by establishing best practices for monitoring, control and surveillance in tuna fisheries. ISSF requires that all participating processors, traders, and importers refrain from transactions with vessels that are not flagged to a country that is participating in the Regional Fishery Management Organization, do not have a unique, permanent identification number issued by the International Maritime Organization, or that are not on an authorized vessel list from a Regional Fishery Management Organization.  These companies are voluntarily taking this conservation measure to a critical next step by withdrawing their tuna from the marketplace upon the discovery that the tuna originated with an IUU-listed vessel.

These companies are also engaged in ongoing work with scientists, vessel companies, and coastal and flag states, that includes trials of electronic observer systems and electronic captain’s logbooks aboard tuna purse seine and long-line vessels. These pilot programs are helping to develop new ways to monitor fishing efforts and creating a set of best practices that can be expanded and scaled up across the industry.

Tackling illegal fishing and the host of impacts associated with it is no small feat, but this week’s conference builds on the momentum generated in recent months. Countries like the United States are embracing global efforts like the Port State Measures Agreement to ensure that all fish landed are legally caught.

While governments, NGOs and industry are taking positive steps to address illegal fishing, it’s clear that more action is needed – across sectors – to tackle this global challenge. More needs to be done by flag states to monitor and control the fishing vessels operating under their flags; by port states to ensure the products landed and traded through their ports are legal; and by market states to ensure that the products sold are of a legal origin. This means new measures and regulations for improved monitoring and enforcement to catch documentation, import controls and traceability.

The announcements by President Obama and the commitments made by the State Department are the type of actions, when taken in concert with continued strong commitments across sectors and nations, that will go a long way to ensuring the continued sustainability of global fisheries and food security.

Image courtesy of the World Wildlife Fund

Susan Jackson is President of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation and Michele Kuruc is Vice President for Marine Conservation for World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Image credit: © Peter Chadwick / WWF-Canon.

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4 responses

  1. I have shown there is a far more immediate and delicious solution to saving the oceans. This is to restore and revive the ocean pastures. I’ve demonstrated the effective affordable methods and technologies to do this with profound success growing hundreds of millions of additional fish, returning salmon to levels of historic abundance in the NE Pacific. http://russgeorge.net/2014/06/23/worlds-first-commercial-scale-ocean-pasture-restoration/ The time for action is now.

      1. You are quite wrong, we have far more than a clue. Today ocean pasture productivity is in cataclysmic collapse. We are over-fishing the last of the fish while we starve them on depleted pastures.

        Healthy ocean pastures and plankton blooms are nothing new to the world. They still show up in many regions and there are no reports of your ‘unintended consequences” save speculations by pundits with “donate here buttons” next to their work.

        When the Kasatochi volcano dust of 2008 brought back historic abundances of salmon in 2012 no one found your ‘unintended consequences.’ Nor are there reports from numerous other volcanic fish miracles from around the world. Our work of 2012 which mimics the volcanic salmon miracle brought even more fish back. The 60 million meals of this healthy salmon being provided in food aide by the US government to American kids isn’t resulting in any complaints other than the phrase “may I have some more please.”

        The ocean pastures used to bloom with vastly more plankton decades ago and sustained an abundance of ocean fish. No reports are to be found of the harmful effects of abundant fish and sea life.

        The crisis in the oceans is immediately solvable for a fraction of the subsidies being paid to fishing privateers to plunder the last of the ocean fish. http://russgeorge.net/2014/06/25/world-fights-last-great-sea-battle-fishing-privateers/

  2. Ending illegal fishing is essential to sustainable management of the world’s fisheries. Improving traceability within the supply chain and enforcement on the water will help us achieve this important goal. But we must also create alternative livelihoods to reduce overcapacity within fisheries. To relieve pressure on overexploited fisheries, the United Nations recommends retraining up to 22 million fishers in other livelihoods. Training fishermen in low-trophic mariculture — like growing seaweed and bivalves — can help reduce poverty and drive marine ecosystem restoration. — Kristin Reed, Ph.D., Strategic Advisor – Olazul (www.olazul.org)

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