NOAA Reports on IUU Fishing

Credit: EJF
Credit: EJF

Published Sep 21, 2019 6:21 PM by The Maritime Executive

NOAA Fisheries has released its 2019 Improving International Fisheries Management Report to Congress identifying nations with vessels reported to be engaged in illegal, unreported or unregulated (IUU) fishing activities globally.   

Mexico, Ecuador and Russia were identified in the 2017 Report for reported IUU fishing activities but have since taken corrective actions to remedy those activities. However, in the 2019 Report, Mexico and Ecuador are again identified for reported IUU fishing activities (occurring in 2016-2018). 

Mexico was also identified for the continuing unauthorized activities of its fishing vessels in U.S. waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

South Korea

South Korea is highlighted for failing to apply sufficient sanctions to deter its vessels from engaging in fishing activities that violate conservation and management measures adopted by an international fishery management organization. A key reason for this most recent listing is IUU fishing activities carried out by two Korean distant water fishing vessels in 2017 that violated conservation measures of the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), an international fishing body established to protect pristine Antarctic waters. 
South Korean and international NGOs expressed strong concern over the case and its subsequent mishandling by government authorities. Despite commitments made to CCAMLR, South Korea’s legal framework has not enabled authorities to sanction vessels engaging in IUU fishing, allowing the vessel owners to sell their lucrative catches – caught illegally in Antarctic waters – on the global seafood market. Current laws in South Korea do not protect consumers from buying seafood products that originate from IUU fishing.

Subsequent to the release of the report, seven Korean and international NGOs have called on South Korea to undertake immediate reforms to restore its international credibility. They include the international groups the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, the Environmental Justice Foundation, Greenpeace Seoul, Oceana and WWF and Korea’s Citizen’s Institute for Environmental Studies, and the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements. The groups say that the listing could result in trade sanctions on South Korean seafood exports if immediate reforms are not undertaken. 
Reforms designed to address the failings in the CCAMLR case are currently before Korean parliament but have not yet been approved. The NGOs have also called for reforms to build greater transparency in Korean fisheries, including the publication of important information on vessel identity and IUU fishing offenses to publicly accessible databases.


The report also highlights significant public reports of alleged illegal fishing by Chinese-flagged vessels in the EEZs of other nations. In addition, there were reports of numerous instances where China denied responsibility for vessels that had multiple characteristics of being Chinese-flagged vessels that were fishing in violation of a conservation and management measure. These allegations indicate that the activities were occurring in almost every region of the world. 

Some of the allegations include:

•  There have been at least three reported incidents with Chinese-flagged vessels in Argentina’s EEZ. In January 2016, Argentina issued an international arrest warrant for the Hua Li 8, which was found fishing 800 meters inside Argentina’s EEZ and then fled from patrol vessels and was later captured in Indonesia in April 2016. In March 2016, the Lu Yan Yuan Yu 010 was caught fishing inside Argentina’s EEZ and was sunk by the Argentine Coast Guard after it tried to collide with and flee from official ships. In March 2018, Argentina issued an international capture order for the Jing Yuan 626 and four other Chinese-flagged vessels of the state-owned Beijing Fisheries. The Jing Yuan 626 was found fishing in Argentina’s EEZ then fled official pursuit with the assistance of the four other boats that threatened to ram an Argentinian Coast Guard vessel.

•  In June 2017, Senegalese authorities detained seven Chinese-flagged fishing boats for illegally fishing in its waters.

•  In 2017, eight Chinese-flagged vessels were detained for illegal fishing by Guinea, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau. Guinea detained the Chinese-flagged vessels Lian Run 34 and 47, which were caught with illegal fishing nets and illegal shark fins.

•  In the Pacific Islands, joint enforcement operations, such as Operation Rai Balang in 2017, showed illegal fishing by five Chinese-flagged vessels in Vanuatu and one Chinese-flagged vessel in Micronesia.

•  In August 2017, the Ecuadorian Coast Guard detained the Chinese-flagged refrigerated carrier vessel the Fu Yuang Yu Leng 999 in the waters of the Galapagos Islands Marine Reserve and found it contained a cargo of 300 tons of fish, including hammerhead and silky sharks. Further analysis of publicly available vessel tracking data shows the carrier vessel loitered in close proximity to four Chinese-flagged longline vessels prior to entering Ecuador’s waters, suggesting unauthorized transshipment may have occurred.

The report is available here.