NOC Committee History
IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud
NOC Committee Agencies
Recommendations and Actions
IUU Fishing FAQs
Seafood Fraud FAQs
Seafood Import Monitoring Program
Commerce Trusted Trader Program
Law of the Sea
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
sets out the basic duty of countries to cooperate in the conservation and management of shared fisheries resources. Other global agreements— such as the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UN Fish Stocks Agreement), and the 1993 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Agreement to Promote Compliance with International Conservation and Management Measures by Fishing Vessels on the High Seas—further spell out the rights and obligations of nations to control their vessels fishing on the high seas and ensure they do not undermine agreed conservation and management rules. The recently negotiated Agreement on
Port State Measures
to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate IUU Fishing (PSMA), once in force, will build on these global instruments to add the first set of binding minimum standards specifically intended to combat IUU fishing.
Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMOs)
Nations cooperate to manage specific fish stocks through the agreements that establish the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations/Arrangements (RFMOs). Through the RFMOs, the United States works with members and other participants to develop binding international measures to manage shared fisheries resources and to combat IUU fishing. These measures can include requirements for observer coverage, catch reporting, satellite-based vessel monitoring, and joint boarding and inspection schemes. These organizations are increasingly undertaking transparent and comprehensive compliance reviews to shine a light on those members that do not meet these obligations. Despite this, many RFMO members still face significant challenges in fully implementing RFMO measures due to lack of resources and technical capacity.
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Guidelines and International Maritime Organization
The United States also takes an active role in negotiating international guidelines and standards through the United Nations General Assembly and the FAO. These include the
FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate IUU Fishing
, international guidelines on flag State responsibility, and standards to support the establishment of a Global Record of fishing vessels. The United States also works through non-fisheries organizations to support efforts to combat IUU fishing. For example, the
International Maritime Organization (IMO)
—the United Nations specialized agency responsible for improving maritime safety and security—recently amended its
ship identification numbering scheme
to allow most large fishing vessels to obtain an IMO number, which facilitates the identification and monitoring of vessels over time despite changes in name, ownership, or flag.
Bilateral and Multilateral Agreements
The United States also maintains a number of bilateral and multilateral agreements that facilitate cooperation on fisheries enforcement and monitoring among treaty partners and U.S. government agencies. Bilateral agreements addressing transnational crimes including IUU fishing enable the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to put foreign shipriders onboard Coast Guard vessels and aircraft, allowing partner nation law enforcement personnel to exercise their authorities in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and over their flagged vessels operating on the high seas. Multilateral agreements allow for the sharing of information, data, and personnel for the purposes of cooperative enforcement efforts and support multilateral large-scale operations.
Trade is another arena where the United States’ international efforts can help combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud. The United States is currently engaged in negotiations with 11 other countries in the
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
, which represents a large percentage of the value of global seafood exports. The United States has set high ambitions for the environment provisions in the TPP, including the incorporation of obligations to end harmful fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and to support measures being developed or implemented through relevant RFMOs and other arrangements in the region, such as catch documentation schemes and port State measures.
RFMOs for each ocean region