NOAA has proposed new measures aimed at illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. These changes address two key tools, the US Moratorium Protection Act and the international Port States Measures Agreement.
The measures would enhance NOAA’s abilities to combat IUU fishing activities and counter forced labour in the seafood supply chain. The agency will seek public comment on the rule once it’s published.
The proposed rule would strengthen NOAA’s ability to address IUU fishing activities when implementing the US Moratorium Protection Act. This is a key engagement tool NOAA uses to identify, consult with, and certify nations and entities whose fishing vessels are engaged in IUU fishing, by-catch of protected marine life, or shark catch on the high seas.
‘The Moratorium Protection Act is one of the United States’ most effective and impactful tools to combat IUU fishing activities,’ said Alexa Cole, Director of NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs, Trade, and Commerce.
‘It has resulted in many successes with identified nations strengthening their national fisheries laws, taking flag state action against their vessels, improving their engagement in regional fisheries management organisations’ compliance processes, and improving their monitoring, control, and surveillance efforts on a global scale. The proposed change to the definition of IUU fishing when implementing this Act will widen the scope of activities we can consider and provide us with the authority to address additional issues.’
Specifically, the rule proposes to broaden the scope of activities that NOAA can consider when identifying nations for IUU fishing to include firstly fishing in waters under the jurisdiction of a nation, without the permission of that nation, or in violation of its laws and regulations, and secondly fishing activities in waters beyond any national jurisdiction that involve the use of forced labour.
Currently, the triggers for identifying a nation for actions of its vessels associated with IUU fishing under the Act are based on undermining or violating measures of international fishery management organisations, or fishing in areas, or on fish stocks, for which there are no applicable conservation or management measures.
In addition to the existing triggers, the proposed rule would allow the United States to identify any nation under the Act for a failure to exercise effective flag state control. Such a failure would be evidenced by persistent and pervasive fishing activities by the nation’s vessels, in waters under another nation’s jurisdiction, without the authorisation of that nation or otherwise in violation of that nation’s laws.
There is a growing body of evidence documenting severe labour abuses on board fishing vessels. Specifically, such abuses and exploitation are known to occur in conjunction with the more egregious IUU fishing cases.
The United States strongly condemns labour abuses of any kind throughout the seafood supply chain.
In December 2020, NOAA and the Department of State published the “Human Trafficking in the Seafood Supply Chain” Report to Congress. This listed 29 nations most at risk for human trafficking in their seafood supply chain.
NOAA and the Department of Labor co-chair the US Interagency Working Group on IUU fishing’s sub-working group on countering forced labor in the seafood supply chain. This group brings attention to the critical role of, and risks faced by, workers throughout the seafood supply chain.
NOAA is committed to addressing this issue and ensuring that products produced with forced labour do not enter US markets. We, therefore, propose the addition of “forced labour” to the scope of activities subject to identification when implementing the Act.
Port State Measures Agreement
‘The Port State Measures Agreement is a key enforcement tool which enables nations, like the United States, to assess the risk that an incoming vessel may be engaged in illegal fishing activities, and decide whether to let it enter to unload catch or receive port services,’ said James Landon, Director of NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement.
‘By expanding the set of information foreign fishing vessels must submit when requesting entry into US ports, the proposed change will further strengthen and harmonise port controls for foreign-flagged vessels, and as a result, help keep IUU fish and fish products out of the world’s markets.’
Specifically, the rule outlines the procedures to designate and publicise the ports to which foreign fishing vessels may seek entry and procedures for conducting inspections of these foreign vessels accessing US ports, and also establishes expanded information submission requirements for foreign fishing vessels and foreign vessels engaged in fishing-related activities requesting entry into US ports, and defines criteria under which port entry and access to port services are authorised or denied, and the notification procedures for communicating such authorisations or denials
NOAA is the primary agency for its implementation, in coordination with the U.S. Coast Guard, and conducts all Port State Measures Agreement inspections for the United States. We screen foreign-flagged fishing or fishing-related vessels to determine if they are on an IUU vessel list or under suspicion of IUU fishing prior to their authorisation to enter port.