Good Fish? Bad Fish?

February 16, 2016
Herring are Unloaded from a Fishing Boat in Rockland, Maine

An illegally caught fish looks and tastes the same as a legally caught fish. With a yearly global cost of billions of dollars, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing hurts honest fishermen around the globe and reduces fish stocks. We need to make it harder for illegally caught fish to end up in our stores and on our dinner plates.

Last week, President Obama took an important step to prevent illegally caught fish from entering into commerce when he signed the papers for the United States to formally join the Port State Measures Agreement to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate IUU Fishing (PSMA). Joining the PSMA is one of a number of actions the United States is taking to address the scourge of IUU fishing.

Fish, whether legally or illegally caught, have to come onto land somewhere to enter the supply chain before reaching stores, processing plants or our dinner plates. Countries implementing the PSMA agree to use a set of simple, but effective, measures to block foreign vessels that seek to land illegally caught fish in their ports. The more ports worldwide that refuse to accept illegally caught fish, the harder it is for dishonest fishermen to land, package, and process their illegal catch and access basic port services, like refueling. Simply put, the PSMA increases the costs of illegal fishing. By joining the PSMA, we’re changing the incentives in the fishing industry to reward honest fishermen and make life harder and more expensive for lawbreakers.

International cooperation is essential. The Department of State is urging, and supporting, other countries to join the PSMA and to follow its rules. We hope to be the 21st party to ratify the agreement; it will only take four more parties for the PSMA to enter into force and start preventing illegal catches from being unloaded in ports around the globe.

At the 2015 Our Ocean conference, Secretary Kerry said, “The real question is whether we, all of us on this planet, are going to adjust our ways in order to protect the ocean for generations to come. The real question is one of leadership and stewardship and responsibility.” Joining the PSMA is a critical way for countries to show their true commitment to our ocean and the sustainability of its resources.

The United States is proud to be hosting the third edition of the Our Ocean conference later this year, where sustainable fisheries and combating IUU fishing will be a main theme. We are hopeful that more parties will join the PSMA by that time, sending a strong signal about how serious we are about halting illegal fishing. An illegal fish may look and smell the same as a legal fish, but a seafood dinner simply tastes better when you know it’s sustainable. 

About the Author: Catherine Novelli serves as Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.

Editor's Note: This blog originally appears on HuffPost Green. 

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