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NOAA identifies 10 countries, including in EU and ACP, that conducted IUU fishing

11 February 2013

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the US administration in charge of fisheries, has submitted a report to Congress that identifies 10 countries engaged in illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing in 2011 or 2012: Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Spain, Tanzania and Venezuela.

The countries identified had vessels that did not comply with conservation and management measures (CMMs) adopted by a regional fishery management organisation (RFMO) to which the United States is party. ‘This is about leveling the playing field for fishermen around the world … fishermen following the rules should not have to compete with those using illegal or unsustainable fishing practices,’ said the NOAA deputy assistant secretary for international fisheries. The United States will soon start consultations with these countries to encourage them to take action to address IUU fishing. If a country fails to take appropriate action, its fishing vessels may be denied entry into US ports, and US imports of fish products may be prohibited.

Some EU countries are part of the list: Italy was identified for illegally fishing with driftnets in the Mediterranean for large pelagic species, including swordfish and bluefin tuna. Spain was identified because of Spanish-flagged fishing vessels that were violating CMMs adopted by two RFMOS.

Ghana and Tanzania are also listed: Ghana has been identified for failing to report data, fleet control deficiencies, non-compliance with fleet capacity limitation requirements and overfishing of bigeye tuna. Tanzania was identified because four of its vessels undermined the effectiveness of RFMO conservation measures.

Korea, whose fleet is also an important actor in ACP fisheries, has been identified for failing to apply sufficient sanctions to deter its vessels from engaging in IUU activities. Although Korea indicated that it is currently changing its law to strengthen sanctions against IUU fishing activities, the United States is concerned that the potential new sanctions are insufficient to deter IUU fishing.

Editorial comment

The NOAA report comes soon after the EU published its own list of third countries engaged in IUU fishing. Interestingly, the EU and the US lists identify different countries, with very little overlap. Given that there is an FAO international plan of action, providing a common framework for countries such as the US, or the EU, to follow, this raises questions about how a country is identified as being engaged in IUU fishing, and why some countries are on one list and not on the other. This suggests that there is a need to maintain efforts to harmonise international approaches to combat IUU fishing. The EC proposal – in the context of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform, to promote an international catch certification scheme proving a fish product has been caught legally – is a step in the right direction.

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