Advancing U.S. leadership in international conservation through public and private partnerships and developing the next generation of Congressional conservation leaders
David Schorr, Manager, Fisheries Governance, WWF
Mark Gleason, Executive Director, Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is harmful to fish stocks and oceans ecosystems and is also detrimental to American jobs and business. “Illegal” fishing refers to fishing in national waters without permission, fishing in violation of laws, or fishing on the high seas without a flag or identifying marks. “Unreported” fishing means that fish caught are not reported or are under-reported. “Unregulated” fishing, also referred to as pirate fishing, is that which is not subject to basic fishing management.
Fishing is a $110 billion industry worldwide; approximately 20% of the world's fish are caught illegally (up to 50% in some fisheries and at least some in nearly all fisheries), adding up to about $23 billion.
Nearly 85% of seafood consumed in the United States is imported, and approximately $1.3 billion worth of fish in the U.S. market is from IUU sources. IUU fishing harms American communities that rely on fishing as well as honest fishermen, who must compete with illegal competitors whose piracy enables them to charge lower prices.
American consumers are often misled about the sources of their seafood; fake crab, for example, is often mislabeled or included with properly tracked crab to hide its origin. Between 2000 and 2010 for every legal crab taken in Russia 2.6 crabs were taken illegally, which resulted in approximately $560 million in lost revenue for U.S. crabbers and $11 million in lost tax revenue for Alaskan communities.
It has been documented that pirate fishermen also use IUU fish to smuggle drugs and diamonds, as well as using their ships for human trafficking.
Means of combating IUU fishing include establishing and maintaining a global registry of fishing vessels, improving inspections in ports, and implementing standards of traceability – the chain of custody for fish.
The United States and the European Union are taking steps to tackle IUU fishing by imposing trade sanctions and using catch certificates to show legitimacy. American Bearing Sea crabbers use a number of strategies to improve and sustain the fishery including: escape mechanisms, biodegradable twine, and special mesh that allows juvenile and undersized crabs, as well as other marine life, to escape nets. These crabbers also use a documented chain of custody to deliver the crabs to processors.
IUU fishing is a serious challenge with dire implications for fishing communities, legitimate fishermen, and fisheries. Many policymakers and industry leaders are taking steps to address the problem, but much more needs to be achieved.
» WWF: Download David Schorr's presentation
» Alaska Bering Sea Crabbers: Download Mark Gleason's presentation
» WWF: Pirate Fishing
» Oceana: "Bait and Switch: How Seafood Fraud Hurts Our Oceans, Our Wallets and Our Health"