IUU fishing in the crosshairs

By

James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
March 14, 2009

Seafood suppliers and buyers play a critical role in bringing illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing to an end. An expert panel explored how pirate fishing and poaching affect fish stocks, fish prices and fishing communities during Sunday's conference session, "IUU & Red List Fisheries: How Industry and NGOs Can Work Together."
 
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates annual global economic losses due to IUU fishing at $9 billion. Yet IUU fishing remains a subject that is "complex, challenging and somewhat of a mystery to some people, myself included," said conference moderator Howard Johnson, president of H.M. Johnson & Associates of Jacksonville, Ore.
 
Richard Gutting Jr., partner at Redmon, Peyton & Braswell LLP, defined IUU fishing as fishing that violates measures required under international agreement to which the United States is a party; overfishing that harms U.S. stocks where there are no international measures; or fishing that harms seamounts, hydrothermal vents or coldwater corals.
 
Gutting, former president of the National Fisheries Institute, said IUU is a slippery term that means different things to different people, but he was adamant when he said, "IUU fishing is bad for my clients, bad for fisheries, is unfair and needs to be stopped."
 
Jim Cannon, CEO of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, said ending IUU fishing can help to "break the boom-and-bust cycle," in which fish populations' vitality can fluctuate wildly.
 
"What we're trying to do is drive improvement," said Cannon. "There are two things [buyers] can do: choose which fishery to buy from and choose which suppliers to buy from. In terms of helping buyers, what we're trying to put in front of them is succinct information."
 
Andrew Cohen, special agent in charge of the National Marine Fisheries Service's Northeast Enforcement Division, says efforts to curb IUU fishing are working. He cited progress made with protecting stocks of Chilean sea bass, once the poster child for illegally harvested fish. At one time, Cohen said most of the Chilean sea bass on the market was likely harvested in violation of international laws.
 
"But I don't believe there is much, if any, illegal harvesting of Chilean sea bass now," said Cohen.
 
"Buyers are in this for the long term, that's the business that we're in," added John Connelly of president the National Fisheries Institute of McLean, Va.
 
Other speakers included Jill Hepp, program officer with World Wildlife Fund, and Mark Powell, VP of fish conservation, Ocean Conservancy.
 
NOAA will hold the first of six public hearings on IUU fishing today in meeting room 203 at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. The agency is proposing a rule to identify and certify nations with vessels engaged in IUU fishing or bycatch of protected species like marine mammals and sea turtles.

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