PIRATE FISHING continued from Homepage


Left to right: Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Dr. Jane Lubchenco, U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere, Alaska Senator Mark Begich, Senator Daniel Inouye, Chairman of the powerful full Senate Appropriations Committee following the signing of the historic U.S. and European statement on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing. The global value of economic losses due to IUU fishing are estimated to range between 10 to 23.5 billion dollars annually. Derek Parks Photo

NOAA Administrator Dr. Lubchenco also attended the beginning of the Paris ICCAT meeting to emphasize the importance the U.S. placed on a serious reduction in eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea Atlantic bluefin tuna quotas. She personally met with many delegations and environmental groups pushing for serious eastern quota reductions and another reduction in the already historically heavily reduced west Atlantic and U.S. fishermen.

Impressive Attendance

Approximately 90 individuals attended the signing ceremony held at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center and about 50 attended a similar event at the National Press Club. The importance of the progress on IUU was clear from the notables attending the ceremony, which included Senator Daniel Inouye (Chairman of the powerful full Senate Appropriations Committee) and Alaska Senator Mark Begich. In addition, 15 foreign embassies were represented along with the State Department and the U.S. Coast Guard. Commercial and recreational fishing groups from around the country were present to support the joint statement.


Since 1969 ICCAT has been one of many Regional Fishery Management Organizations (RFMO’s) empowered by formal international treaty to manage and conserve highly migratory resources such as bluefin tuna, swordfish and other shared resources such as sharks and recreational marlins. IUU fishing has been a chronic problem for ICCAT species in the Atlantic since the beginning of restrictions in 1974. It has been the critical focus of numerous meetings to develop statistical trade tracking documents, legal sanctions on trade in fish determined to be the product of IUU fishing and moderate to severe sanctions on the offending parties under a necessary protracted process involving several steps.

Past U.S. efforts at ICCAT have been led by Dr. Rebecca Lent, Director of NMFS International Affairs Division and Dr. Chris Rogers both of whom have aggressively tackled compliance and IUU issues. Rogers, in particular, served as the chairman of ICCAT’s Compliance Committee where he persistently pursued a rigorous, systematic approach to determining and addressing compliance issues.

Around 2004, the government of Japan led a multiple-year penalty agreement severely punishing Taiwan for illegal fishing, which included the scrapping of many of Taiwan’s IUU vessels, severe reductions on bigeye tuna fishing and increased monitoring and payback of illegal catches. Canada has also worked closely with the U.S. to develop countermeasures to reduce IUU fishing that would withstand World Court and other international trade agreement challenges.

Other RFMO’s manage bottom and midwater trawl fisheries by many nations for shared stocks found beyond any one country’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Examples include fisheries outside Canada’s jurisdiction on the Grand Banks, substantial fisheries in international waters of the Bering Sea in the Pacific Ocean and shared salmon stocks.

According to the Joint Statement signed by Lubchenco and Damanaki “IUU fishing is a global phenomenon with devastating environmental and socio-economic consequences, particularly for coastal communities in developing countries who rely on fisheries for their livelihood or for protein.” The global value of economic losses due to IUU fishing are estimated to range between $10 to $23.5 billion annually.

Left to right. Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Russell Smith III, U.S. Federal Commissioner to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), Jane Lubchenco, U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. Damanaki and Lubchenco met in Washington, D.C and signed a landmark statement to accelerate joint efforts to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. The signing ceremony was chaired by  Russell Smith III, who also holds the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Fisheries, NOAA. NOAA. Photo 


The U.S. Congress has provided NOAA with significant tools to address IUU problems and issues. These laws include international provisions of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (in- cluding recent amendments under the Moratorium Protection Act), the Lacey Act, Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act, the Endangered Species Act and more. Earlier this year, NOAA submitted a report to Congress addressing the status of U.S. and international efforts to deal with 12 nations identified as participating in IUU fishing in the Atlantic. The countries cited as continuing to operate or support IUU fishing included Colombia, Ecuador, Italy, Panama, Portugal and Venezuela.

NOAA’s tool kit to reduce and punish IUU scofflaws include developing IUU vessel lists, port state controls such as monitoring and surveillance and most important–implementation of market-related measures to help insure compliance.

Damanaki Changes EU Attitude

At the signing ceremony, the formal remarks of EU Commissioner Damanaki and Dr. Lubchenco signaled a new, even more aggressive era in dealing with IUU fishing and instilling a conservation ethic in EU fishing policies across the board. It was clear from the remarks that the two fishery leaders share mutual views on conservation objectives. Damanaki’s rise to power in fishery policy for the EU has angered particularly the French and Spanish industries and other Mediterranean players as well.

Damanaki has made no secret of favoring small-scale artisanal fisheries over large-scale industrial fishing to maximize employment, minimize bycatch and maximize sustainable production. She was surprised to learn that more than 50 percent of the U.S. bluefin quota has historically been allocated to small-scale artisanal community fisheries under the Harpoon and General categories hand gear fisheries since the beginning of ICCAT quotas for the U.S. in 1975.

Damanaki is a native of Greece and was active in the underground opposition to the dictatorship in Greece. Her leadership of the pro-democracy “Polytechneio revolt” and becoming the “voice of the uprising” led to imprisonment for nine months by the Greek dictatorship. Subsequently, she became the first women to lead a Greek political party and be elected vice-president of the Greek Parliament. She has a Master of Science degree in chemical engineering.

This is a welcome change from prior EU leadership under John Spencer at ICCAT. Prior EU efforts were to stall on compliance measures, criticize and attempt to minimize the scientific advice and hide the true EU objective to provide massive subsidies to develop farming capabilities well beyond sustainable productions level of the Mediterranean bluefin stock.

You can learn more about NOAA’s effort to combat IUU fishing at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/stories/iuu/index.html

Rich Ruais,
Executive Director, American Bluefin Tuna Association


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