From the Editor: Stamping Out Illegal Fishing

From the Editor: Stamping Out Illegal Fishing

Photo: Riddhiman Bhowmik via Unsplash.

We all know that IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing is bad for the commercial fishing industry. But a new editorial from the World Economic Forum, an international non-governmental and lobbying organization, serves as a strong reminder of the multiple reasons why.

Among the reasons cited in the editorial are the physical danger to crew members, the threat to marine ecosystems and human rights abuses.

The editorial, which can be found on the World Economic Forum’s website, begins with the harrowing tale of an IUU fisherman who said it had been normal for anglers to work 20 hours or more per day and that some people were driven to commit suicide or were killed trying to escape into the sea.

“Illegal fishing is commonplace because no one is watching,” the fisherman, 52-year-old Watcharin Kanchoopol is quoted as saying. Kanchoopol said he worked from 2010 to 2016 as a fisherman on an illegal Thai vessel.

IUU fishing is one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems due to its ability to undermine efforts to manage fisheries sustainably and endeavors to conserve marine biodiversity, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

“Rampant IUU is squeezing the livelihoods of many small-scale fishermen,” the WEF said in its editorial. “And, in many cases, serious violations of fishermen’s human rights go hand-in-hand with IUU fishing.”

“IUU fishing often involves ignoring the regulations of various countries and international organizations and underreporting catches,” the editorial continues. “Other tactics include using explosives and poisons to take fish, operating with stateless fishing vessels, rewriting vessel names and flying flags of countries other than their originating ones.”

According to the FAO, IUU catches can reach up to 26 million tons per year and can earn up to $23 billion.

The Economic Forum has said that the key to achieving sustainable fisheries is strengthening efforts by the United States, Japan and other countries that have large seafood markets, to end IUU fishing.

The U.S., however, has begun to make legislative progress when it comes to fighting IUU fishing.

In June 2022, President Biden signed a memorandum that directs government agencies to make a concerted effort to eliminate IUU fishing. The memorandum was notable in that it took the position of IUU fishing being a matter of national security.

The document called for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to increase the number of fish species covered by the Seafood Import Monitoring Program or SIMP. And in December 2022, NOAA proposed a draft rule to add species or groups of species to the SIMP, which requires businesses in countries that export 13 types of marine products, including abalone, shark and tuna, which are considered high risk for IUU, to submit certificates to the government through their importers.

In addition to individual work, countries are being encouraged by the World Economic Forum to use communications channels and international forums to encourage emerging countries like China, which are expanding their fisheries, to strengthen their response measures.

The forthcoming G7 Summit, taking place May 19-21 in Japan is expected to be an important venue for discussing the strengthening of international IUU measures.

Hopefully, the U.S. and other countries attending the event can come together to increase measures to cut down on the rampant IUU activities that are taking place in the Pacific Ocean and various other seas across the globe.

The World Economic Forum’s IUU editorial can be read at

Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at [email protected].  

Photo: Riddhiman Bhowmik via Unsplash.


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