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Growing Momentum to Fight Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing


Maria Damanaki

Global Managing Director, Oceans, The Nature Conservancy

September 2015

Jardines de la Reina, Cuba. Photo © Ian Shive
Jardines de la Reina, Cuba. Photo © Ian Shive

Over the last two weeks, I have been captivated by The New York Time’s investigative reporter Ian Urbina’s four-part series, Outlaw Ocean.

If you haven’t read it, it’s a dramatic exposé about the chronic and widespread violence, oppression and lawlessness that exists out on the open ocean.

In the series, Urbina shines an important spotlight on the magnitude of challenges facing ocean management and the need for governments to work together. The last in the series, The Longest Chase, gives us a glimpse into the $10 billion-per-year illegal fishing trade “that is thriving as improved technology has enabled fishing vessels to plunder the oceans with greater efficiency.”

There is, however, momentum building to address these issues.

This week, The Australian Government ratified a UN Agreement that commits all parties to act against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which threatens the economic and social infrastructure of the fishing community and industry around the world.

Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill (The IUU Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015) to implement this treaty and strengthen enforcement mechanisms to stop IUU fishing.

A companion bill is moving through the the U.S. Senate, signaling an important step forward towards curbing IUU fishing around the world, and improving the conditions for fishermen whose only desire is to earn a living.

As we look for solutions to this growing problem, we can and must consider the role of nature and economic growth in helping to create sustainable paths that lift people out of poverty, increase resilience in the face of climate change and create opportunities.

At The Nature Conservancy, we call this Blue Growth by Design. Blue Growth by Design ensures conservation has a voice in ocean development—making the many connections between healthy oceans and other pressing global challenges including poverty, jobs, climate change and economic stability.

These are huge challenges, and no one wins if pirates succeed. No single community, government or organization can fight these threats alone, but if we work together, sustainable ocean development can help us address multiple challenges in our society.

Originally Posted on Conservancy Talk

September 30, 2015