NOAA Identifies Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Countries and new Provisions for Shark Conservation Act

The United States is committed to working bilaterally and multilaterally to address illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing, and bycatch of protected living marine resources, as well as shark catch on the high seas where the nation does not have regulatory measures in place comparable to the United States. The United States wants to ensure that its import market does not encourage or reward illegal or unsustainable fishing activity.

The U.S. High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act requires the Department of Commerce to produce a biennial report to the U.S. Congress identifying nations whose vessels have engaged in IUU fishing activities in the preceding two years (2011-2012), and bycatch of protected living marine resources (PLMRs) and/or shark catch on the high seas in the preceding year (2012). It also requires the Department to issue certification decisions for those nations identified in the previous Report to Congress (January 2011). The 2013 biennial Report to Congress was published today and is available at

2013 Report Highlights
The 2013 Report identifies ten nations – Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Italy, Mexico, Panama, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Tanzania, and Venezuela – whose fishing vessels engaged in IUU fishing in 2011 or 2012,  and one nation – Mexico – whose vessels had bycatch of North Pacific loggerhead sea turtles, a protected living marine resource, in 2012 without an effective regulatory regime to address such bycatch. NOAA Fisheries will work with these nations over the next two years to encourage them to take appropriate action to address the activities for which they were identified. NOAA will work with Mexico to develop an action plan that addresses the bycatch of the North Pacific loggerheads.

This is the first time that the United States is identifying a nation for bycatch-related activities. The Moratorium Protection Act limits the timeframe for bycatch identification to the year preceding the publication of the report. Therefore, for the 2013 report, the United States required evidence of bycatch activities in 2012, which was extremely challenging given the nature of bycatch reporting.
All six of the nations identified in the 2011 Report to Congress (Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Venezuela, Italy, and Portugal) have addressed the illegal fishing activities for which they were identified and have received positive certifications as a result of their actions. Each nation took actions such as sanctioning vessels with fines and/or revocation of fishing licenses, adopting or amending laws and regulations, or improving monitoring and enforcement which has resulted in a positive certification.

Final Rule to Implement International Provisions of the Shark Conservation Act
NOAA Fisheries will publish a final rule next week to implement the international provisions of the Shark Conservation Act.  The regulations specify the identification and certification procedures for nations whose vessels engage in shark catch on the high seas and also amend the definition of IUU fishing to ensure that NOAA Fisheries can take a more comprehensive approach to addressing unsustainable fisheries activities of concern. The rule will be available after publication here:

Please share this information within your organization and do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions regarding these matters.

Elizabeth McLanahan
Acting Director, NOAA Fisheries Office of International Affairs