NOAA’s Biennial Report to Congress on IUU Fishing Shows Bad Actors Still Pillaging Our Oceans - Oceana USA

NOAA’s Biennial Report to Congress on IUU Fishing Shows Bad Actors Still Pillaging Our Oceans

Seven countries identified for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing

Press Release Date: August 31, 2023

Location: Washington, D.C.


Cory Gunkel, Megan Jordan | email:, | tel: Cory Gunkel, 202.868.4061

 WASHINGTON — Today the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its 2023 Report to Congress on Improving International Fisheries Management, identifying seven nations and entities for illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities. Two of those nations were also cited for issues relating to forced labor, and two were identified for issues related to shark catch. This is the first time the report has used forced labor and shark catch in IUU fishing identifications.  

The biennial report, required under the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act, identifies nations that fail to address IUU fishing, bycatch of marine wildlife, and shark management. Once identified, the United States collaborates with those nations to address their problematic fisheries issues. The 2023 report identifies Angola, Grenada, Mexico, China, Taiwan, The Gambia, and Vanuatu as nations and entities participating in IUU fishing.  

The report starts a two-year process for the identified nations to take the necessary steps to address IUU fishing. If a nation takes appropriate actions, it will receive a positive certification in the next report. If not, it receives a negative certification, triggering a denial of U.S. port privileges, among other measures, including potential import restrictions.  

The 2023 report announced certification determinations for 31 nations and entities for illegal fishing and/or bycatch of protected living marine resources, including positive certifications for Costa Rica, Guyana, Senegal, and Taiwan.  

Oceana’s Vice President for the United States Beth Lowell released this statement following today’s report: 

“Oceana applauds the Biden administration for taking decisive action to fight illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, combat forced labor, and protect marine wildlife and key species like sharks. The United States, for the first time, is identifying countries in the report for both IUU fishing and forced labor, including China and Taiwan. The report outlines there is still work to be done, but we are encouraged by NOAA’s action to ensure that fishing vessels uphold the law. All seafood sold in the U.S. should be safe, legally caught, responsibly sourced, and honestly labeled. NOAA taking action against countries that fail to follow the rules is one essential tool in the U.S. government toolbox to improve fisheries around the world.” 

Oceana is working to help stop illegal fishing, increase transparency at sea, and require traceability of all seafood. To learn more about the campaign, visit 


A report by the International Trade Commission found that the United States imported $2.4 billion worth of seafood derived from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in 2019. IUU fishing can include fishing without authorization, ignoring catch limits, operating in closed areas, targeting protected wildlife, and fishing with prohibited gear. These illicit activities can destroy important habitats, severely deplete fish populations, and threaten global food security. For illegal fishers, IUU fishing is a low-risk, high-reward activity, especially on the high seas where a fragmented legal framework and lack of effective enforcement allow it to thrive.  

Americans overwhelmingly support policies to end illegal fishing and seafood fraud, according to a nationwide poll that Oceana released in January 2021. Included among the key findings: 89% of voters agree that imported seafood should be held to the same standards as U.S. caught seafood. Additionally, 81% of voters say they support policies that prevent seafood from being sold in the U.S. that was caught using human trafficking and slave labor. Eighty-three percent of voters agree that all seafood should be traceable from the fishing boat to the dinner plate, and 77% support requirements for all fishing vessels to be publicly trackable. The findings show widespread bipartisan support for policies aimed at increasing transparency and seafood traceability.