US, EU to Increase Fight Against Illegal Fishing
European Union officials estimate that twenty percent of all fish are caught illegally. They say honest fishermen and their communities lose as much as twenty-three billion dollars worth of seafood every year.
The European Union and the United States are among the world's largest importers of seafood. This month they signed a joint agreement in Washington to increase cooperation against fish piracy. The problem is also known as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, or IUU.
Jane Lubchenco, the under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, signed the agreement for the United States. Maria Damanaki, the commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, signed it for the European Union.
They said the European Union and the United States are starting to identify illegal fishing ships and bar them from their ports. Countries are taking measures to document imported fish, they said. And they promised to seek stronger enforcement of fishery management measures.
Gerald Leape is senior officer for international policy at the Pew Environment Group in Washington. Mr. Leape says pirate fishing exists only because illegal operators find a place to sell their fish.
GERALD LEAPE: "The pirate fishermen undermine any attempt at achieving sustainable fisheries. They undermine the efforts of those fishermen who are playing by the rules to legally market the fish they catch."
Illegal fishing reduces market prices, making it harder for those who follow the law to compete. It can also increase the risk that fisheries will collapse.
Three billion people depend on seafood as their main source of protein. Ms. Lubchenco said the millions of tons of seafood pirated each year may represent as much as forty percent of the total catch in some fisheries.
The new agreement aims for greater action by governments to prevent illegal operators from making a profit. For example, port officials can prevent them from landing at their ports to sell their catch.
Gerald Leape says honest fishermen are not the only ones affected by the actions of fish pirates.
GERALD LEAPE "They undermine the efforts of scientists to set quotas to make sure that stocks of fish do not go extinct. And they undermine those regulators who are trying to determine who should catch what, and how to divide up what should be a sustainably managed catch. These are pirates in the truest sense of the word."