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US Releases Action Plan Against Illegal Fishing

20 March 2015

US - The US Presidential Task Force on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing and Seafood Fraud has released its action plan.

This plan articulates the aggressive steps that federal agencies will take both domestically and internationally to implement the recommendations the Task Force made in December 2014.

The plan identifies actions that will strengthen enforcement, create and expand partnerships with state and local governments, industry, and non-governmental organizations, and create a risk-based traceability program to track seafood from harvest to entry into US commerce.

The plan also highlights ways in which the United States will work with foreign partners to strengthen international governance, enhance cooperation, and build capacity to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud. This includes the Administration’s work to secure historic and enforceable environmental provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade agreement that includes countries that together account for approximately one-quarter of global marine catch and global seafood exports.

“The Obama Administration is committed to working to ensure that America’s fishing industry remains the heart and soul of coastal communities across the country,” said US Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews.

“The steps the United States has taken to be a leader in environmental stewardship are paying off. However, our nation's fisheries remain threatened by illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and seafood fraud, which negatively affects our markets. The Task Force’s new strategic plan will aggressively implement recommendations to guarantee that US fishing fleets remain competitive in the global economy.”

Some key actions include:


  • Conclude in 2015 the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations that include commitments to combat IUU fishing and first ever provisions to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies.
  • Work with Congress to enact implementing legislation for the Port State Measures Agreement and receive commitments from at least 14 additional foreign countries to join the Agreement.
  • Work with international governments, Regional Fisheries Management. Organizations, and others to advance best practices for: the monitoring, control, and surveillance of international fisheries; the implementation of port State controls; and, compliance monitoring.


  • Implement a strategy to optimize the collection, sharing, and analysis of information and resources to prevent IUU or fraudulently labeled seafood from entering US commerce by September 2015.
  • Implement recommended adjustments to US tariff codes to properly identify seafood products in trade by December 2015.
  • Prioritize combating seafood fraud and the sale of IUU seafood products for joint federal/state enforcement operations and investigation and prosecution of cases in 2015.


  • Enhance collaboration with interested stakeholders on specific IUU fishing or seafood fraud concerns including through an annual, public, in-person forum of interested stakeholders and the creation of a public web portal to relevant information held by agencies.


  • Define the types of information to be collected along the seafood supply chain from harvest or farm to entry into the US market and the ways in which this information will be collected by October 2015.
  • With input from our partners through a public engagement process, identify the species to which this system will first apply based on how at risk they are of being the product of IUU fishing or seafood fraud by October 2015.
  • Finalize rulemaking to collect additional information on species at risk as a requisite of entry into US commerce by September 2016.
  • Determine how information within the traceability system – including species, geographic origin, and means of production – can be shared with consumers.
  • By December 2016, the Task Force will identify the next steps in expanding the program to all seafood entering US commerce, taking into careful consideration input from stakeholders, as well as the experience from the first year.

In response to the Obama Administration’s illegal fishing and seafood fraud action plan, Eszter Hidas, EU Policy Officer for WWF's Illegal Fishing programme, commented: “The US government illegal fishing and seafood fraud action plan is a crucial win for the EU and the global community. As the world’s largest seafood market, the EU introduced strong laws in 2010 to close its borders to illegal products and will now get the support of another big player like the US taking bold steps.

"We expect that the plan announced on the other side of the Atlantic will further boost the EU’s strong action to combat illegal fishing, which is estimated to cost between €8 billion and €19 billion annually. The world’s two biggest fish importers seem now determined to close their doors to any illegal fish product.”

Michele Kuruc, vice president of ocean policy at WWF-US said: “The action plan marks a decisive shift in US policy. The US Administration is putting black market enterprises on notice that the country is closing its doors to their illegally caught seafood.

"The plan has the right elements to ensure that seafood comes from legal sources, including common-sense requirements for catch information and product traceability. It’s critical that the Administration builds on the plan’s momentum and delivers on promised timelines to ensure that all seafood entering the US will be legal and responsibly caught.”

The National Fisheries Institute voiced its support for many of the recommendations in the plan but stated that questions remain about the execution, duplication of existing government efforts and funding.

"It is essential that NOAA resources continue to focus on the science-based decision-making that is the basis of sound US fisheries management. Diverting resources from stock assessments to fund programmes that duplicate other agencies responsibilities would be a mistake," said John Connelly, President, NFI.

"Calls for greater coordination to avoid duplication and waste of government resources should be heeded." 

You can view the Action Plan by clicking here.

Further Reading

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TheFishSite News Desk

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