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How technology, government efforts, and market action are aligning to address IUU fishing

Seafood2030 recently hosted a Virtual Forum on 1 and 2 December, focusing on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and systems being developed to fight it. The event was recorded and can be watched at https://seafood2030.vfairs.com/.

Featured during the discussion was the Stanford Center for Oceans’ recent work studying IUU fishing and the global response to it. Along with the full-length presentation from the event, Seafood2030 has also produced a six-minute “executive summary” of the presentation.

The direct economic impacts of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing on the seafood industry are becoming better understood, as is the reputational risk that these practices cause for the entire seafood industry.

These impacts can be most harmful for developing nations struggling to manage their fisheries sustainably. According to the Stanford Center for Oceans, nearly one billion people worldwide rely on fish as their main source of protein.

“In many of the countries that are most dependent, one fish in three is stolen,” Stanford Center for Oceans Co-Diurector Jim Leape told SeafoodSource. ”IUU fishing defeats governments’ efforts to manage their resources and undercuts the millions of fishers who are playing by the rules.”

The complexity of the challenge of addressing IUU fishing requires a level of coordination of efforts and resources that has been difficult to attain across key geographies, sectors, and governments, according to Leape. In a recent presentation, Leape said a coordinated effort to address IUU fishing is emerging to help the industry meaningfully reduce the impacts of illegal fishing on it and fishing-dependent communities.

Leape said developing technology, a strong push by governments, and market action are working together to support a more responsible and sustainable seafood industry. The presentation provides context for understanding this problem, including the origins and the scale of the problem for the industry, and the emerging opportunities that are driving change on the water.

The advancements in technology to identify the location of boats actively fishing have provided a much better understanding of where IUU fishing is happening and offered evidence to encourage government and market action, Leape said. A remaining problem is trying to identify the target species of the fishing operations being observed. Less-expensive monitoring equipment and technology can be a part of the solution, according to Leape, but also likely will require further advancements in artificial intelligence to review the huge amount of data produced by these monitoring efforts. Advancements in traceability technology are also helping the industry create a more-coherent approach to traceability and addressing IUU fishing, he said.

Along with enforcement of existing laws and regulations, a key role for governments in fighting IUU is to require and ensure the type of reporting that will support better fisheries management and reduced risk for the industry, according to Leape. Enforcement can be especially challenging for countries with large exclusive economic zones but limited resources for patrolling and interdiction. Efforts from the world’s top seafood importers, such as the European Union’s red- and yellow-carding system and the U.S. Seafood Import Monitoring Program, have helped create incentives for improved management and enforcement, Leape said, and recently, Japan has also implemented requirements for catch certification and traceability for certain species.

Market efforts, largely driven by precompetitive collaborations, are supporting government efforts through efforts like the ISSF’s Proactive Vessel Records Register, SeaBOS’s company commitments to end IUU fishing, and the Global Tuna Alliance’s work to increase the industry and market voice in fisheries management, Leape said.

Photo courtesy of Stanford Center for Oceans

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