Fish Fights!

2019-08-22T16:54:02+00:00 September 24, 2018|

From: Ocean News Weekly/ By: Ocean Leadership Staff 

What It Was

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard held a hearing titled. “Fish Fights: An Examination of Conflicts Over Ocean Resources.”

Why It Matters

Seafood accounts for 20 percent of the animal protein in the human diet worldwide, and many people around the world depend on the ocean for their livelihoodHowever, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which occurs when pirate fishers catch fish in violation of national laws or international agreements and treaties, undermines the sustainability of global fish stocksThis practice often goes hand-in-hand with other illicit activities, such as human and drug trafficking, and is a threat to U.S. national, economic, and food security 

Key Points

There was bipartisan agreement among subcommittee members that IUU fishing must be addressed now. Due to its international nature, combatting IUU fishing is a complex issue, requiring many interagency and international cooperation and agreements.

Senators expressed frustration with IUU fishing and emphasized that when other countries participate in the practice, it threatens the livelihood of fisheries and food security in our nation. Chairman Dan Sullivan (AK) and U.S. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Daniel Abel noted recent accomplishments in combatting IUU fishing. This past June, the Coast Guard intercepted a Chinese flagged vessel off the coast of Alaska with 10 kilometers of illegal driftnet and 80 tons of illegally-fished salmon. The vessel and crew returned to China for enforcement action.

Ambassador David Balton (Woodrow Wilson Center) outlined five steps to combat IUU fishing: promote adherence to the Port State Measures Agreement, expand fish traceability programs, get other nations to end subsidies that contribute to overfishing and IUU fishing, keep building a global record of fishing vessels, and adopt the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea. Ambassador Balton pointed out that IUU fishing is just a small piece of the puzzle. He emphasized that to achieve long-term sustainability in ocean fisheries, much more needs to be accomplished, such as preventing marine pollution, overfishing, and destructive fishing practices.

Dr. Paul Doremus (Deputy Assistant Administrator for Operations, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)) informed senators that NOAA established a seafood import monitoring program that requires the importer to report data from the point of harvest to the point of entry into U.S. commerce. Implementation of catch documentation and trade programs improves transparency in the seafood supply chain and prevents illegal trade in seafood products.

In response to concerns about food security from IUU fishing and environmental pressures, Dr. Doremus suggested that the U.S. continue development in sustainable aquaculture production, both domestically and internationally with the private sector, where there are high standards that offer sustainable production of farm fish.


“One of the foundational tenets of our successful domestic fisheries management is a reliance on sound of verifiable science. While the news and statistics surrounding illegal unregulated and unreported fishing is certainly dire, I want to make sure that the science supporting those facts is accurate, so appropriate action can be taken without penalizing the legal seafood industry.” — Senator Dan Sullivan (AK)

“As a significant fishing power, a key influencer in global fishing industry, and a major market for imported seafood products, we have a responsibility to help sustainably manage global fisheries, not only to feed Americans and ensure our fisheries are economically viable, but also to help maintain global stability and peace with other coastal countries.” — Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI)

…many coastal nations do not manage their fish stocks sustainably. They don’t enforce conservation measures effectively or coordinate management of shared stocks with other fishing nations. And you all have testified to this fact. And because other nations are not doing their part, these gaps are allowing for the illegal, unreported, or the unregulated fishing that is occurring.” — Senator Bill Nelson (FL)

Find Out More

Watch the full hearing

Related coverage from Ocean Leadership

Want to receive articles like this straight to your inbox? Sign up for our newsletter!