One year ago, on June 27th, 2022, President Biden signed the historic National Security Memorandum on Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing and Associated Labor Abuses (NSM-11).
Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is providing a status update on actions taken under National Security Memorandum-11 to address the problem of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, including by distant water fishing vessels; protect ocean ecosystems; safeguard seafood supply chains; and combat forced labor abuses within the seafood industry.
NSM-11’s first year implementation has been strengthened by action through and coordination with the U.S. Interagency Working Group on IUU Fishing established pursuant to section 3551 of the Maritime Security and Fisheries Enforcement (SAFE) Act (16 U.S.C. 8031), and chaired by the Department of State, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in collaboration with 21 other member agencies.
- The U.S. Interagency Working Group on IUU Fishing released the first National Five-Year Strategy for Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing on October 19, 2022. The Strategy details U.S. priorities and plans to combat IUU fishing, curtail trade in seafood and seafood products derived from IUU fishing, and promote global maritime security. The Strategy lists five priority flag states and administrations (Ecuador, Panama, Senegal, Taiwan, and Vietnam) in regions where the Working Group will focus its work with partners on combating IUU fishing and related threats. Together with other governments and authorities, the seafood industry, academia, philanthropies, and nongovernmental stakeholders, the United States aims to use this strategy to make tangible progress in addressing IUU fishing and to execute a shared global vision for sustainable stewardship of marine resources.
- The U.S. Interagency Working Group on IUU Fishing created a new interagency task group on identifying and countering criminal networks and enterprises that support IUU fishing. This task group will identify examples and recommendations for how agencies can use unique authorities and programs to better identify and target the individuals and entities behind many types of IUU fishing, using insight from the tools counter-narcotics and counter-wildlife trafficking communities have adopted in their work.
- NOAA, State and DOL co-chair the U.S. Interagency Working Group on IUU Fishing sub-working group on Labor, taking action to understand the gaps in enforcement authorities to counter labor abuses, and to coordinate technical assistance in fishing across the interagency, while supporting standing reporting requirements.
IUU fishing can be associated with forced labor, a form of human trafficking, and other crimes and human rights abuses. These abuses undermine the livelihoods and human rights of fishers globally, alongside U.S. economic competitiveness, national security, and fishery sustainability. Actions under NSM-11 to address forced labor in the seafood industry include:
- Sanctioning perpetrators of IUU fishing and serious human rights abuse: On December 9, 2022, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned two individuals, Li Zhenyu and Xinrong Zhuo, and the networks of entities they control, including Dalian Ocean Fishing Co., Ltd. and Pingtan Marine Enterprise, Ltd. along with eight other affiliated entities. Additionally, this action identified 157 People’s Republic of China (PRC) flagged fishing vessels in which these entities have an interest. These actions were taken pursuant to Executive Order 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world. The designation of Pingtan Marine Enterprise was the first time Treasury has designated an entity listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. The action demonstrates the U.S. government’s ongoing effort to impose tangible and significant consequences on those engaged in serious human rights abuse, including on those vessels engaged in IUU fishing.
- Establishing the Collaborative Accelerator for Lawful Maritime Conditions in Seafood (CALM-CS). Developed, established and chaired by NOAA, with participation from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Labor (DOL), U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), the U.S. Department of State (State), and representatives from all relevant sectors—workers, harvesters, processors, retailers, brokers, non-governmental organizations, and think tanks—this public-private partnership promotes legal and safe working conditions throughout the fishing and seafood industry. CALM-CS working groups are each co-chaired by one representative from the U.S. government and one from an external sector, helping to give workers a voice, support at-risk populations at sea, promote standards and due diligence, identify illegal labor practices, and enhance safety and labor conditions aboard U.S. vessels.
- DOL’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) has published research and created tools to raise public awareness of forced labor and child labor in seafood supply chains.
- DOL’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor includes coverage of forced labor and child labor in seafood supply chains, as required under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2005 and subsequent reauthorizations.
- The Sweat and Toil App presents information on seafood and other products made with forced labor or child labor in an accessible, user-friendly format.
- The Better Trade Tool provides data on goods imported into the United States which are at risk of being produced with forced or child labor.
- DOL’s Comply Chain tool helps companies undertake effective due diligence to identify, address and mitigate child and forced labor in their global supply chains. The tool is broadly applicable to all global supply chains, and includes several seafood case studies.
- DOL has also published a fishing fact sheet on strengthening labor conditions and promoting good jobs in the fishing sector.
- DOL frequently engaged with fishers’ unions and industry, sharing tools to protect fishers from labor exploitation, including the union campaign for Wi-Fi aboard vessels, at venues such as the Seafood Expo North America, Seafood Expo Global, the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions Annual Meeting, and the Global Migration Film Festival.
- DOL engages with trade partners and multilateral organizations to address forced labor in fishing.
- DOL continues to monitor trade beneficiaries for labor rights violations in fishing, raising labor in appropriate bilateral engagements, including with interagency partners such as NOAA, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Customs and Border Patrol, and the Department of the Treasury. For example, DOL meets regularly with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States (TECRO) to discuss labor rights and protections for fishers in Taiwan’s distant water fleet. Under the auspices of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and TECRO, both sides have exchanged ideas, trainings, and best practices, as well as shared information on the challenges of monitoring foreign-flagged fishing vessels.
- DOL met with the European Union Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and Directorate General for Employment in Brussels in the Fall of 2022 to raise the use of shared tools to promote transatlantic cooperation to counter the use of forced labor in seafood supply chains.
- During the U.S. 2023 host year of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), DOL will host a side event on the margins of APEC’s Oceans and Fisheries Meeting in Seattle, Washington to build awareness among APEC economies on the nexus of IUU Fishing and labor abuse.
Left unchecked, IUU fishing and associated labor abuses undermine U.S. economic competitiveness, national security, fishery sustainability, and the livelihoods and human rights of fishers around the world and will exacerbate the environmental and socioeconomic effects of climate change. The Biden-Harris Administration continues to champion Multilateral and Regional Solutions that Support Sustainable Fishing.
- IUU Fishing Action Alliance: The United States, with the United Kingdom and Canada, launched the IUU Fishing Action Alliance at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference. The Alliance brings together like-minded partners who pledge to join and effectively implement international agreements, increase effective monitoring, control, and surveillance, and improve transparency and data sharing. Since the launch, Iceland, the Republic of Korea, Norway, Chile, Panama, New Zealand, France, and the European Union have joined the Alliance, and together will work to take urgent action to combat IUU fishing.
- Our Ocean Conference: At the eighth Our Ocean Conference in Panama, the U.S. delegation announced $6 billion USD in commitments to address threats to Our Ocean, more than doubling last year’s pledge. More specifically, the United States made 7 announcements totaling more than $665 million USD under the sustainable fisheries area of action. U.S. initiatives aim to improve climate resilience in fisheries and advance transparency in the fight against IUU fishing.
- World Trade Organization (WTO) Fisheries Subsidies Agreement: For more than two decades, WTO Members have negotiated how to address the use of harmful subsidies in the fisheries sector. Through extensive U.S. engagement over the course of these negotiations, WTO Members were finally able to achieve a groundbreaking agreement at the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference in June 2022. The WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies (Agreement) contains several important disciplines, including prohibitions on subsidies to vessels or operators engaged in IUU fishing, subsidies to fishing regarding stocks that are overfished, and subsidies to fishing on the high seas outside of the competence of a relevant regional fisheries management organization or arrangement. The Agreement also includes robust transparency provisions to strengthen WTO Members’ notification of harmful fisheries subsidies and to enable effective monitoring of Members’ implementation of their obligations. The United States was among the first WTO Members to accept the Agreement when it submitted its instrument of acceptance to the WTO on April 11, 2023.
- Adoption of High Seas Boarding and Inspection Conservation Management Measure in SPRFMO: In February of 2023, the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO) adopted a comprehensive High Seas Boarding and Inspection (HSBI) measure in its convention area, which goes into effect October 1, 2023. This is a substantial step in advancing international oceans governance and will aid in the management and enforcement of Conservation Management Measures (CMMs) across the Southern Pacific Ocean.
- Safeguarding Labor Standards for Crew at Regional Fishery Management Organizations: NOAA chairs a working group to address labor abuses in fisheries under the purview of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) that seeks to develop a non-binding resolution to protect workers through crew standards. In addition, NOAA, with support from DOL and the USCG, continues to actively engage in developing a binding conservation and management measure on labor standards for crew at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).
- Addressing Labor Exploitation in Fishing in ASEAN (ALFA) Project: DOL funds the ALFA project, which supported the adoption of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Declarations on the Placement and Protection of Migrant Fishers and on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Family Members in Crisis Situations at the 42nd ASEAN Summit on May 10, 2023. Previously, as part of the U.S.-ASEAN Summit in May 2022, DOL announced a $2.5 million grant to Development Alternatives Inc. in Southeast Asia to counter forced labor and abusive working conditions in fishing. DOL’s ALFA project works closely with ASEAN’s Senior Labour Officials Meeting and supports ASEAN’s Labour Inspection Committee Thailand with upcoming regional training for labor inspectors to address forced labor in the context of trafficking in persons in the fishing sector. DOL’s ALFA project will commence a Regional Study on Labor Practices in the Fishing Sector and a Regional Mapping on Good Practices in Private Sector Engagement in Addressing Labor Exploitation in ASEAN.
- Working with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on Decent Work in Fishing:
- In December 2021, DOL awarded $5 million in a cooperative agreement for the ILO focused on strengthening decent working conditions in Peru and Ecuador by combating IUU fishing in coastal communities. DOL’s Strengthening Decent Work in the Fishing Sector in Ecuador and Peru project is conducting a study on the gaps, costs, and benefits of the implementation of ILO Convention 188 and the application of ILO Recommendation 199 in these countries.
- DOL also supported a project that will publish a forthcoming ILO Handbook on the Detection of Forced Labor in Fishing this summer.
NSM-11 acknowledges that “no nation, government entity, or non-governmental organization can address IUU fishing and associated labor abuses single-handedly.” Some of the actions taken to bolster partner engagement, capacity, and resilience, in the last year included:
- Creation of the IUU Fishing Center of Excellence (COE): The U.S. Coast Guard will establish an IUU Fishing Center of Excellence (COE) to be located on Ford Island, Hawai’i. The establishment of this Indo-Pacific IUU Fishing COE will promote regional cooperation and collaboration including maritime domain awareness, interoperability, capacity building, and professional exchanges to combat IUU fishing, identify safety and labor violations, and protect living marine resources.
- The U.S. Coast Guard Signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Global Fishing Watch. The MOU enables the Coast Guard to exchange real-time technology, information, and analysis, to inform operational patrol planning with Global Fishing Watch, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing ocean governance and one of the international leaders in the fight against IUU fishing.
- Designation of an Indo-Pacific Support Cutter – USCGC HARRIET LANE (WMEC 903): The U.S. Coast Guard designated the USCG Cutter HARRIET LANE as the new Indo-Pacific support cutter to support capacity building, maritime domain awareness, and combined operations with like-minded Indo-Pacific partners. The HARRIET LANE will be based out of Hawaii and operational by the end of Fiscal Year 2024.
- Creation and Deployment of the Deployable 5-Day IUU Fishing Seminar: NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard developed an exportable international-focused seminar to assist partner nations in developing and strengthening their domestic fisheries enforcement regimes to prevent IUU fishing commodities from entering the global seafood market. In 2022, the U.S. Coast Guard and NOAA provided seminars to the Philippines, Thailand, Mexico, and Mauritania. In addition, the Department of State, with interagency partners, has created an IUU Fishing Road Show at U.S. Embassies in Peru and Colombia.
- NOAA’s Capacity Building Program:
- NOAA implemented a five-year interagency agreement on efforts to combat IUU fishing with USAID in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. NOAA is providing on the ground support to the three target countries to improve their capacity to detect, deter, and interdict IUU fishing and fishing related crimes. NOAA’s direct engagement includes providing technical assistance and training to fisheries enforcement officials, strengthening monitoring, control and surveillance tools and supporting effective implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA).
- In partnership with USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia, the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), and the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), 60 government officials from Vietnam and Thailand were trained in best practices for foreign fishing vessel inspection, and proper flag state responsibilities. U.S. law enforcement staff traveled to Vietnam and Thailand, and strengthened relationships with Thailand’s Department of Fisheries and Vietnam’s Directorate of Fisheries.
- NOAA also led a Seafood Container Inspection Workshop, hosted by SEAFDEC and in partnership with USAID. Twenty government officials from the ten ASEAN nations were trained in implementation of the PSMA and best practices for shipping container inspections.
- NOAA, with support from DOS INL, engaged in a “Peer to Peer Exchange” with the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to engage with Philippines agencies that have a nexus to the PSMA and combating IUU fishing and complete a draft five-year work plan.
- The Government of Indonesia–with NOAA support–has developed PSMA Inspector training curriculum specific to their domestic implementing regulations. NOAA is moving forward under a new five-year agreement with USAID to assist with refinement of the curriculum and to coach Indonesian instructors who will begin to deliver the curriculum. This marks a significant step towards the goal of having Indonesia become self-reliant in training their fisheries inspectors to detect and deter IUU fishing products from entering the international market. The Government of Indonesia, with NOAA support, will be leading its first PSMA inspector training using their updated curriculum in October 2023.
- SeaVision maritime situational awareness upgrades, updates, and operational successes: The U.S. SeaVision tool, hosted by the Department of Transportation with the U.S. Navy, has grown to over 5,000 active users from more than 100 partner nations. SeaVision is a web-based maritime situational awareness tool that enables users to view and share a broad array of maritime information to improve maritime operations, increase maritime security, and build partnerships within the maritime community.
- Incorporation of Radio Frequency (RF) Data into SeaVision: The SeaVision team successfully integrated HAWKEYE 360’s commercial RF collection capability into the maritime domain awareness tool thereby enabling the detection and tracking of radars not emitting Automatic Identification System (AIS) signals. This feature aids worldwide endeavors attempting to combat IUU fishing, identify trends and specific activities of interest, and helps manage resources through more effective cueing by providing increased situational awareness to both U.S. agencies and partner nations.
- Updates to SeaVision Baseline: The SeaVision team continues to elicit feedback from the user community to provide meaningful updates on an agile framework basis. Recent updates include adding the abilities to alert users to vessels not emitting AIS, to playback vessel voyages with enhanced features (playback speed, filtered vessel lists, and alerts) and to export history trails and playbacks.
- Recent SeaVision Operational Successes: SeaVision chat communicated directly with the Seychelles’ Coast Guard Maritime Operations Center during a March 2023 maritime bilateral operation to support the development of products resulting in the boarding of, and building the IUU fishing case against, the Fishing Vessel Fish Finder. Separately, SeaVision’s ability to highlight vessels of interest led to USCGC STONE capturing images of four high-priority OFAC-sanctioned vessels and the identification of a potential illegal transshipment by an OFAC-sanctioned vessel.
Additionally, as directed in NSM-11, in December 2022, NOAA issued a proposed rulemaking on the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) as part of its commitment to continuously expand coverage of the program, as appropriate. The rule proposed to add five new species and species groups to SIMP and expand two species groups already included in SIMP. In addition, the proposed rule would make several other administrative changes and improvements to SIMP functioning. NOAA has also continued to develop its capabilities to conduct risk-based assessments under SIMP, as part of its efforts to strengthen its efforts to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud.
During this National Ocean Month, these NSM-11 actions, and many more still planned or underway, showcase President Biden’s commitment to counter IUU fishing and associated labor abuses, strengthen America’s economic competitiveness, and conserve and restore the health and productivity of the world’s ocean for generations to come.