Illegal Fishing Getting Tougher As Japan and Russia Crack Down

Photo: © Claus Christensen

Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (“IUU”) fishing operations will now have two fewer countries to dump their fish inJapan now requires a “certificate of legal catch” from a foreign government if a company from that country wants to sell its fish in Japan. And the Russian government ratified a treaty that allows them to inspect fish at the dock and refuse to block entry to fishing vessels known to be involved in illegal fishing.  The United States requires the same sort of certification as Japan, but only for some types of fish, and the U.S. already ratified the treaty.  Food security around the world and ocean health overall are harmed by large illegal fishing operations.

Why This Matters:  Japan’s market is one of the largest in the world and its new law is seen as pivotal in fighting illegal fishing.  Russia’s ratification of the treaty on blocking illegal fish is good news because Russia was one of the few industrial fishing nations that had not signed on to the treaty.  These actions put pressure on the world’s largest market for fish and the country with the most illegal fishing vessels — China.  As long as China does not crack down on illegal fish coming into China — from its own vessels or from foreign ones — the bad guys will still have a big black market for their fish.

U.S. NGOs Campaigned In Japan

The change in Japan’s law is a particularly impressive feat because it was the result of a campaign by a coalition of U.S. and Japanese non-profits. They formed a group called the Anti-IUU Forum Japan consisting of WWF Japan, Seafood Legacy Co., The Nature Conservancy, Sailors for the Sea Japan, Environmental Defense Fund, and GR Japan K.K to push for the new sustainability law. The new Japanese law sets a high bar — it is more stringent than similar laws in Europe or the U.S.

WWF Japan Seafood Market Manager Yukihiro Misawa told Seafood Source, “As a member of the committee on catch documentation schemes called by the Fisheries Agency of Japan, I participated in many discussions on the establishment of a new scheme over the past ten months.” “I would like to welcome the enactment of this new law to regulate international and domestic trade of seafood sourced by IUU fishing. Japan has great roles and responsibilities to end IUU fishing globally and pass on bountiful oceans for future generations,” Misawa said.

Sally Yozell of the think tank The Stimson Center said of the law:

“Being able to track seafood from harvest to the consumer is a significant step in deterring illegal fish from entering the global market. This law will help level the playing field for honest fishermen and women around the world and offers confidence to consumers that the fish they buy at the grocery store is legally harvested. Further, it undermines the criminal networks engaged in illegal fishing. The U.S., Japan, and the European Union together make up more than half global seafood market. Japan joining the U.S. and Europe by expanding seafood traceability and fishing transparency will act as a significant deterrent to preventing IUU fish from entering global markets.”

And Sailors for the Sea Japan President Minako Iue told Seafood Source that:

“the law represented a watershed moment for Japan’s seafood sustainability-focused NGO community.  We would like to continue our support to contribute to awareness raising among various stakeholders – from fishermen to consumers – to enable fisheries industries to become growing industries and to realize sustainable seafood consumption,” Iue said.

The Russians ratified the treaty because in recent years, they have had to crack down on poachers who catch salmon for salmon roe — currently there are many North Korean vessels that have been illegally fishing in Russian waters.

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