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Comments to the Presidential Task for on IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud

January 26, 2015

For those who are interested, several of my colleagues at MSU – Mark Axelrod, John Spink, and Meredith Gore – and I put together a comment document that we submitted to the Presidential Task Force on IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud. This was in relation to the Task Force’s request for comments on how best to implement its recent recommendations on IUU fishing and seafood fraud.

The document you can read above. In general, the advice related to how to build state-capacity in the developing world to reduce illegal fishing and to improve the U.S.’s trade sanction system for countries engaging in illegal fishing.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. permalink
    January 26, 2015 3:27 pm

    Hi Mark, Lots of good and interesting comments and suggestions. One gap seems to be that you don’t talk about the US helping other countries upgrade their legislation and regulations so that differential regimes don’t offer unfair advantage to those able to seek out lower risk opportunities – effective compliance with poor laws is not much gain. What’s on my mind is the amazing upgrades going on in Korea right now in response to myriad negative attention, including from the US but principally the EU – there’s a hundred other countries out there for whom it’d be nice to offer some positive encouragement to follow the same path. Cheers, Alistair

    • January 28, 2015 10:55 am

      Alistair, great comment. I completely agree that compliance with poor laws is not much gain in terms of conservation or livelihoods. (Though I would still suggest that compliance with poor laws might lay a foundation for future compliance with better laws.)

      I also agree the U.S. could do more to help countries with their legislative reforms, but with some caveats. You mention “differential regimes”. Do you mean to suggest that the focus on reducing illegal fishing in export-oriented fisheries is not generally being matched with reducing illegal fishing in domestic fisheries, or fisheries that do not export to the EU? It certainly seems like a possibility. Even without the EU’s sanctions looming, I’ve seen how many countries pay more attention to export-oriented fisheries.

      If I’m right in how I interpret your comment (and I might not be!), then I’d say that the reason I didn’t think to write this recommendation is that I don’t see how the U.S. government could be very effective in reducing the gap in management standards between fisheries destined to be consumed by the US/EU and those that are not, because, well, governments don’t tend to make good advocates for conservation standards. I’d certainly see a role for NGOs, though, in offering this assistance/advocacy. And, as an academic, I could definitely see the opportunity for a pretty interesting critique of the conservation benefits of seafood certification programs.

      • February 4, 2015 4:50 pm

        FYI, Alistair and I ended up connecting over email. He responded to my comment and gave permission for me to share here. Enjoy:

        “Ah, I actually meant by ‘differential regimes’ the difference in the the legal regimes – given the choice, all but the nicest of fishers will target ‘low risk’ regimes (poor laws and/or poor enforcement and or poor penalties). Interestingly, a report by Lutchman in 2011 could find no evidence of shifting fish trade patterns following introduction of the EU regulation with various hypotheses advanced. And it’s my experience too – the big driver is getting the paperwork right not the threat of penalties that makes folk pay more attention to exports – regularly, I hear that a container or consignment of toothfish by my Aus industry mates gets held up somewhere. Indeed, this is where most of the push-back seems to be – the trade doesn’t like the paperwork irrespective of their attitude to the issue…

        Ah,mindful of my earlier comment about what I meant by ‘differential regimes’, the thought I had in mind is that the US could do what the EU is doing but hopefully in a somewhat gentler way – negotiate control regime upgrade commitments by regulators responsible for fisheries from which fish products imported into the US were derived. The most obvious, urgent and important one being getting port states to ratify the FAO PSMA and then implement it – helping with this stuff is something the US does well – I’ve been watching them in recent years do this with Singapore and the CCAMLR CDS – the US is determinedly blocking their becoming a cooperating non-member until they have regulations sufficient to implement the CDS while helping Singaporean authorities fix it – a perfect example of ‘speak softly and carry a big stick’ – the US at its best – it could do a lot more of this sort of stuff. Whether it’s ‘conservation friendly’ or not is somewhat irrelevant – it’s just making sure that obligations and expectations are met – again, that wonderful US golden rule, ‘trust and verify’.”


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