The United States has successfully ratified the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), an international agreement that will help combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing globally. IUU fishing encompasses any illegal activity including harvesting species that are protected, using illegal gear, disregarding quota limits, and operating without necessary permits or authorization.
IUU fishing is a global issue that negatively impacts the welfare of honest fishermen, results in economic losses throughout the fishing sector, threatens ocean health, and encourages dangerous activities like human trafficking. Recent reports have found that illegal activity could account for 20% of the global seafood catch (up to 26 million tons), leading to losses between $10 and $23.5 billion each year.
The Port State Measures Agreement is a robust first step toward ending IUU fishing globally. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations adopted the Agreement in 2009, and it will become effective 30 days after 25 countries have ratified. Once a country has ratified, they must block ships suspected of illegal activity from entering their ports, strengthen and expand dockside vessel inspections, and enhance information-sharing about IUU fishing.
Fifteen countries including the US have now ratified. The US historically has been a leader in curbing illegal fishing, and ratifying the treaty would represent a strong global commitment to making the oceans safer, more sustainable, and more equitable. Other recent countries which have ratified include Iceland (6/2/2015), St Kitts and Nevis (7/6/2015), and Australia (7/20/2015). As the 15th country to ratify, the United States’ move will likely provide substantial momentum for other states to join the agreement. Globally and nationally, the approval of the PSMA is an enormous win for the oceans and the U.S. seafood industry up and down the supply chain. The United States will be equipped with a significant tool to bar vessels carrying illegal fish into the nation’s ports.
President Obama has already shown significant leadership with establishing the Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud. This ratification of this pivotal international agreement is one more tool to help eliminate IUU fishing globally. Other key pieces to ending illegal fishing include requiring documentation for all seafood to verify it came from legal sources, full chain traceability to pass key information through the supply chain and providing more information at the point of sale about seafood to buyers.