US President Joe Biden issued a major memo this week to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and associated labor abuses.
The national security memorandum — which coincides with the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon, Portugal — calls for a cross-agency approach to tackle IUU fishing, forced labor, and other human rights abuses in the seafood supply chain:
“Left unchecked, IUU fishing and associated labor abuses undermine U.S. economic competitiveness, national security, fishery sustainability, and the livelihoods and human rights of fishers around the world and will exacerbate the environmental and socioeconomic effects of climate change.”
The memorandum directs government agencies to “use the full range of existing conservation, labor, trade, economic, diplomatic, law enforcement, and national security authorities” to address the problem of IUU fishing and associated labor abuses.
In the USA, up to 85% of the fish consumed is imported. A March 2021 report by the International Trade Commission found that the USA imported $2.4 billion worth of seafood derived from IUU fishing in 2019.
Biden’s action was welcomed — with caveats — by Beth Lowell from Oceana, who in a statement said:
“President Biden is taking steps forward in the fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and the associated labor abuses. This memorandum signifies real progress in pulling together the full force of the U.S. government in the fight against IUU fishing, forced labor, and other human rights abuses, but more still needs to be done. The memorandum directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to expand the Seafood Import Monitoring Program to include some additional species, but it falls short from requiring the program to apply to all seafood imports, which is key to stopping illegal products from entering the U.S. market. Until the United States holds all seafood imports to the same standards as U.S.-caught fish, illegally sourced seafood will continue to be sold alongside legal catch. Oceana looks forward to working with the Biden administration to implement this memorandum and building upon the progress announced today.”
Check out Biden’s full memo at whitehouse.gov.