Three Coalitions Urge the EU, Japan, and U.S. Governments to Strengthen Cooperation to Fight Illegal Fishing and Labor Abuses in Seafood Supply Chains - Oceana USA

Three Coalitions Urge the EU, Japan, and U.S. Governments to Strengthen Cooperation to Fight Illegal Fishing and Labor Abuses in Seafood Supply Chains

Press Release Date: June 5, 2024



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

On this UN International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, the EU IUU Fishing Coalition, IUU Forum Japan, and the US IUU Fishing & Labor Rights Coalition issued a joint statement calling on the governments of the EU, Japan, and the US to unite efforts in the fight against IUU fishing and labor abuses within the seafood sector. 

The EU, Japan, and the US collectively import over 60% of the world’s fish and seafood, granting them outsized leverage to mitigate and prevent the devastating environmental and human rights impact of IUU fishing.

“Illegal fishing can’t thrive if there’s no demand for its products. As the largest global markets for imported seafood, the United States, EU, and Japan drive demand worldwide. Unfortunately, the seafood industry is linked to IUU fishing, which depletes marine resources, destroys habitats, and is explicitly tied to forced labor and human rights abuses. The United States, EU, and Japan have the power and responsibility to address these issues in our global seafood supply chains by blocking imports from IUU products. Together, these three governments can set a new standard for ethically sourced and sustainable seafood,” said Dr. Max Valentine, Campaign Director for Illegal Fishing and Transparency, Oceana.

“While the EU has demonstrated commendable commitment to fighting IUU fishing, the task requires a global effort. Major seafood markets must coordinate efforts, sharing policies, tools, and technology to improve transparency, traceability, and sustainable fisheries management. Together, let’s ensure that IUU fishing products find no safe harbour in our markets,” says Grace Howe, Senior Associate Fisheries Policy, The Nature Conservancy, Member of the EU IUU Fishing Coalition.

“IUU fishing is threatening marine ecosystems, seafood resources, seafood producers, local communities and entire supply chains globally. It casts a shadow over global food security as the world population continues to grow toward the 10-billion milestone. The world’s seafood markets can never prosper sustainably unless IUU fishing is ended globally. And without strong collaboration among the three largest seafood importers, IUU fishing can never be ended globally. We are hoping to see the three governments fulfill their responsibilities and take initiative,” says Wakao Hanaoka, Founder and CEO of Seafood Legacy, Member of IUU Forum Japan.

The goals outlined by the three coalitions for increased market state cooperation include:

  • Strengthening import controls for seafood produced linked to IUU fishing and/or forced labor;
  • Improving the exchange of real-time information to bolster compliance and oversight;
  • Implementing tools and technologies to increase transparency and traceability in seafood supply chains; and
  • Developing effective strategies to combat forced labor. 

The statement highlights the opaque nature of the fishing industry and seafood supply chains as a key obstacle to holding accountable those who benefit from IUU fishing and forced labor.

“These governments have a unique leadership opportunity to shape best practices globally for protecting the oceans, workers, and the communities who are the most vulnerable to the scourge of illegal fishing,” said Ben Freitas, Manager, Ocean Policy, World Wildlife Fund.

This joint statement, Strengthening Collective Efforts to Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and Labor Rights Abuse, represents a firm commitment from civil society to work alongside governments in the pursuit of sustainable and ethical practices within the seafood industry, safeguarding the health of our ocean for generations to come.

About the three coalitions:

  • The EU IUU Fishing Coalition — The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Oceana, The Nature Conservancy, The Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF — have been working together since 2014 to promote EU leadership in improving global fisheries transparency and governance to end illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
  • The US IUU Fishing & Labor Rights Coalition brings together human rights and environmental organizations focused on the nexus of illegal, unreported & unregulated (IUU) fishing and labor rights in fisheries. Our members include: Azul, Conservation International, Corporate Accountability Lab, Earthjustice, Fishwise, Freedom United, Greenpeace USA, Human Trafficking Legal Center, Humanity United Action, International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, Ocean Defense Initiative, Oceana, Verité, and World Wide Fund for Nature.
  • IUU Forum Japan has been working together since September 2017 on measures against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Current members include Sailors for the Sea Japan, Seafood Legacy, UMITO and WWF Japan.