US ratifies Port State Measures Agreement to combat IUU fishing

Published on
February 16, 2016

With a signature from President Barack Obama on 11 February, the United States formally ratified Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), making the U.S. an official member of the international accord designed to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The U.S. becomes the 21st party to ratify the PSMA, which goes into effect once 25 parties have signed and ratified the agreement. Larger countries that have signed on so far include Australia, Norway, South Korea as well as the European Union, which counts as one signatory party under the accord.

The signing is a result of the passage by Congress of the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act, which was approved unanimously in 2015 and signed by President Obama in November. The U.S. had already implemented many of the requirements of the PSMA with earlier legislation but the law’s passage ensured alignment with the international agreement.

Following the signing, the White House released a statement at that time saying the new law would benefit fishermen, seafood buyers and consumers by protecting domestic markets from unfair and illegal competition and ensure consumer confidence in seafood.

“The United States will now join a global effort to ratify and implement the Port State Measures Agreement, which will prevent vessels carrying fish caught illegally from entering our ports, keep illegal product out of the market and demonstrate our continued leadership in the global fight against IUU fishing,” the White House statement said.

Originally adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2009, the PSMA stipulates authorities at ports of entry for seafood conduct dockside inspections, block entry to vessels known to be involved in IUU and share information with other parties to the PSMA regarding vessels known or believed to contain IUU product.

According to a press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “the bill also implements U.S. commitments under the Antigua Convention that updates the framework for managing shared stocks of tunas and other highly migratory species in the eastern Pacific Ocean and strengthens the ability of the United States to address fishing activities of concern by foreign nations under the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act.”

Joe Zelasney, the manager of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Ending Illegal Fishing Project, said the U.S. ratification of the agreement is an important step toward ending IUU fishing around the globe.

"By ratifying this agreement, the United States is demonstrating its global commitment to legal and sustainable fisheries. This will encourage international cooperation to end illegal fishing in national waters and on the high seas worldwide," he said. "The agreement, once implemented widely, will be a cost-effective way to stop illegally caught fish from entering the market, turning IUU fishing from a high-gain, low-risk activity into one in which the likelihood of being caught is a real and present danger and a major deterrent.”

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