U.S. Coast Guard Puts New Focus on the Fight Against Illegal Fishing

USCG file image

Published Sep 18, 2020 12:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard released a new strategy to enhance maritime security and the rule of law by combating illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, particularly in the Pacific.

IUU fishing is a collection of unsustainable fishing practices threatening the health of fish stocks worldwide. It is estimated to account for about 20 percent of global fisheries output and results in billions of dollars in economic damages for legitimate fishing interests each year. In the Pacific, it presents a dire threat to many communities who rely on fishing for income and nutrition.

“We are committed to working with our allies and like-minded partners to strengthen the international fisheries enforcement regime and counter this pervasive threat. As a recognized world leader in maritime safety, security and environmental stewardship, the Coast Guard has a responsibility to help build a coalition of partners willing to identify and address IUU fishing bad actors and model responsible global maritime behavior," said Adm. Karl Schultz, commandant of the Coast Guard. 

Key elements of the new strategy include:

- Using U.S. intelligence capabilities to analyze patterns of illegal fishing and identify the bad actors behind IUU fishing vessels
- Deploy Coast Guard forces for enforcement efforts
- Confronting the actions of "predatory and irresponsible nations"
- Promoting the adoption of high seas boarding authorities, adding fishing to U.S. bilateral enforcement agreements, and pursuing enforcement partnerships with flag states and coastal states
-  Helping port states improve their port security programs to prevent IUU fishing products from entering the market

"IUU fishing has replaced piracy as the leading global maritime security threat. If IUU fishing continues unchecked, we can expect deterioration of fragile coastal States and increased tension among foreign-fishing Nations, threatening geo-political stability around the world," said Adm. Schultz in a statement. 

China - the United States' primary geopolitical rival in the Pacific - has the world's largest deep-sea fishing fleet by a wide margin, and its flagged fleet is also considered the world's worst for IUU fishing activity. A subsidized portion of China's fishing fleet, known in the U.S. as the Chinese "maritime militia," serves as a paramilitary force in support of Chinese strategic interests in the South China Sea.