President Obama Vows to Combat Illegal Fishing, Protect Pacific Waters

U.S. President Barack Obama Vows to Combat Illegal Fishing, Protect Pacific Waters

Washington, DC, June 17, 2014. On the last day of the U.S. State Department meeting on “Our Ocean”, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a new task force to crack down on illegal fishing operations and black market seafood making its way to U.S. supermarkets. This was the second of two major announcements delivered by President Obama, the first of which related to new actions to expand and protect marine reserves in the Central Pacific Ocean.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe White House press release described the initiative to combat black market fishing and support fishers, as follows:

“The President is directing Federal agencies to develop a comprehensive program aimed at deterring illegal fishing, addressing seafood fraud, and preventing illegally caught fish from entering the marketplace by increasing traceability and transparency. Black market fishing constitutes up to 20 percent of the wild marine fish caught each year around the world, and drains up to $23 billion from legitimate fishing enterprises. The program will be an important step in ending illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, building the market for legally and sustainably caught seafood, and supporting the men and women of the fishing industry.”

According to the Guardian, officials stated that “rogue trawlers” undermine efforts to measure and manage fish stocks. Estimates are that one of every five fish is caught illegally, at a cost of USD 10-23 billion, which harms legitimate commercial fishing operations around the world as well as consumers. The task force, composed of representatives of over a dozen U.S. agencies, will develop a comprehensive strategy to end pirate fishing by the end of 2014. It will also consider requiring fishing vessels to install transponders to track their movements at sea to reveal the sources of seafood that ends up in U.S. supermarkets.

The Guardian also reported that some environmental groups had urged Congress to go further and to implement a treaty that would put identification numbers on all fishing vessels and curb landings of illegal fish catches. This is likely a reference to adopting implementing legislation for the Port State Measures Agreement, on which the U.S. Senate unanimously approved in April 2014. The implementing legislation is contained in the Pirate Fishing Elimination Act, which still must be passed by both chambers of Congress.

Further reading:

Press Release, White House, June 17, 2014, FACT SHEET: Leading at Home and Internationally to Protect Our Ocean and Coasts

The Guardian, June 17, 2014, Obama to expand marine reserves and crack down on seafood black market

Undercurrent News, June 17, 2014, Obama establishes national task force to combat seafood fraud, IUU fishing

Undercurrent News, April 4, 2014, US Senate approves UN treaty against illegal fishing

The International Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) Network aims to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of fisheries-related MCS activities through enhanced cooperation, coordination, information collection and exchange among national organizations and institutions responsible for fisheries-related MCS.