A presidential task force on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and seafood fraud is expected to make its recommendations to the White House by year’s end.
The issue, noted the presidential memorandum creating the task force, is that IUU fishing continues to undermine the economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries and fish stocks, both in the United States and around the world.
Global losses attributable to the black market from IUU fishing are estimated to be $10 billion to $23 billion annually, weakening profitability for legally caught seafood, fueling illegal trafficking operations, and undermining economic opportunity for legitimate fishermen both in the US and around the world.
Before the close of the comment period on Sept. 2, the task force had received comments from 56 entities, including the Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers, At-Sea Processors Association and North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission.
“Our members are under no illusion that there is a single ‘silver bullet’ that will be able to fully address the issue of IUU fishing, specifically in the context of illegal Russian crab and its penetration of the US market,” wrote Mark Gleason, executive director of Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers. ABSC has recommended strengthening country of origin labeling requirements, increasing traceability throughout the supply chain, and passing domestic legislation to fully implement the 2009 UN FAO Agreement on Port State measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.
Stephanie Madsen, executive director of the At-Sea Processors Association, recommended that NOAA Fisheries conduct a market analysis to identify to what extent there is significant IUU Russian crab and pollock catches and, if so, whether such products are being exported to the US.
If problems are revealed, targeted actions by the federal government can be developed and implemented, Madsen said. The APA also urged the task force to not subject the seafood industry to additional, unnecessary catch verification and traceability regulations when there is no specific information available to support the contention of some that IUU catches are marketed in any significant way in the US, Madsen said.
The North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission has a 22-year record of international cooperation in successfully reducing illegal fishing on the high seas of the North Pacific, said Vladimir Radchenko, executive director of NPAFC.
“International agreed instruments of law related to international trade can be useful to deter IUU fishing,” he said. “Efforts to deter IUU fishing are frustrated by a lack of transparency in major seafood markets, and raising awareness and educating the general public is very important for success in combating IUU fishing,” he said.
With the main objective of promoting the conservation of anadromous stocks in the North Pacific Ocean, the NPAFC undertakes continuing and increasing efforts to eliminate fishing for salmon and steelhead in the North Pacific outside of national waters, Radchenko said.
Complete comments of the 56 responding individuals and entities are online at http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NOAA-NMFS-2014-0090-0017