Sea Shepherd Legal (SSL) welcomes the announcement made on August 12, 2021 by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) accusing China of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by its "remote water fleet" (DWF ); namely a fleet equipped with vessels that will fish outside its national waters.
The NMFS took this important and historic milestone in its biennial report to Congress under the High Seas Driftnet Moratorium Protection Act (Moratorium Protection Act) (in French the law guaranteeing the moratorium on driftnet fishing) in part in response to the evidence submitted to NMFS by SSL in collaboration with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS).
The United States Congress has enacted and the President has enacted numerous laws to control or prohibit large-scale driftnet fishing both under the jurisdiction of the United States and beyond the exclusive economic zone of any nation, including the Driftnet Impact Monitoring, Assessment, and Control Act of 1987 (Title IV, Public Law 100-220), the Driftnet Act Amendments of 1990 (Public Law 101-627), and the high seas driftnet fishing (Title I, Public Law 102-582)
"The President will use the appropriate means of the Department of Defense, the United States Coast Guard and other federal agencies to detect, monitor and prevent violations of the United Nations moratorium on large-scale driftnet fishing on the high seas." for all fisheries under the jurisdiction of the United States and, in the case of fisheries outside the jurisdiction of the United States, to the fullest extent permitted by international law. "
Like the European Union's IUU regulations (illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing), the law on the protection of the moratorium aims to curb IUU fishing through economic pressure.
The EU regulation intended to prevent, discourage and eradicate IUU fishing entered into force on 1 January 2010. Now: only fishery products validated as legal by the flag state or the exporting country concerned can be imported into the EU or exported from the EU.
As one of the largest importers of seafood, the United States wields significant economic power over the countries with which it trades. Under the Moratorium Protection Act, the NFMS submits biennial reports to Congress identifying countries that engage in poor fisheries management practices. This includes countries that engage in IUU fishing on the high seas. An identified nation then has two years to resolve the issues detailed in the report or face negative certification that results in denial of port privileges for its fishing vessels and other sanctions issued by the United States. In early 2019, an SSCS vessel carefully documented IUU fishing by the Chinese vessel Fu Yuan Yu 19 operating in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. Specifically, the vessel was engaged in fishing for endangered silky sharks in a manner that violated the measures of the Inter-American Topical Tuna Commission (IATTC) - The Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission which is responsible for conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. and having jurisdiction over this high
Sea Shepherd Legal then incorporated this evidence into a full legal brief sent to CITT and China. After China did not respond, SSL submitted the evidence and information to the NMFS asking it to investigate whether China should be pinned on the Moratorium Protection Law's list.
The decision of the NMFS to identify the responsibility of China is important. China has the world's largest DWF (made up of thousands of fishing vessels). This huge fleet "has been heavily involved in illegal practices, ranking worst out of 152 coastal states on a global IUU fishing index." However, China has only been identified once before (in 2009) under the Moratorium Protection Law. As one of the United States' largest seafood trading partners, China now has a strong incentive to take corrective action to avoid negative certification in the 2023 NMFS report to Congress.
Sea Shepherd teams are proud to have been an integral part of this process, combining their at-sea viewing platforms with legal and policy expertise to encourage the NMFS to take strong action against Chinese IUU fishing.