Sustainable Fisheries

Fish stocks play a vital role in food security, providing nutrition and a source of income for billions of people.  The livelihoods of 10-12 percent of the world’s population – that’s over 870 million people – depend on fisheries and aquaculture.  And over three billion people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as a significant source of animal protein.  Fisheries are a pillar of the global economy.

However our fisheries are threatened by unsustainable fishing.  Lack of scientific data, poor management, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing reduce the long-term potential of fisheries to provide food and jobs.  According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, just over 30 percent of the world’s assessed fish stocks are overfished and being harvested unsustainably.  Another 58 percent of fish stocks are being fished at or near their sustainable maximum and cannot support expanded harvest.  All fish stocks, and especially these overfished and fully fished stocks, require scientifically-based, effective, and precautionary management to ensure their long-term sustainability.

The Our Ocean conference will examine the steps that fisheries managers need to take to reduce, and ultimately end, overfishing and mitigate the adverse impacts of fishing on the broader marine environment.  Some options include: setting fisheries rules on the basis of sound science, monitoring and controlling fishing activity, enforcing meaningful penalties on violators, and building capacity for developing nations to fulfill their commitments.

Governments must also consider ways to combat IUU fishing, which costs the global economy billions of dollars each year.  One of the most effective and cost efficient means to do so is by joining and implementing the FAO’s Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing.  The Port State Measures Agreement requires Parties to refuse port entry or use by fishing vessels from another country that is known or suspected to have engaged in IUU fishing.  Strong and effective implementation of the Agreement will ensure consistent enforcement measures to fight IUU fishing in ports around the globe.  It will also improve coordination among countries, thereby preventing loopholes, weak points, and miscommunications that can be taken advantage of by illegal fishers. 

At the 2015 Our Ocean Conference, Secretary Kerry announced a new high priority global initiative – Safe Ocean Network – to combat IUU fishing through enhanced collaboration, cooperation, and information sharing among parties.  This global initiative will use a variety of tools to strengthen detection, enforcement, and prosecution of illegal fishing and related criminal activity at sea.  In particular, it will advance the use of existing and emerging “maritime domain awareness” technologies to combat IUU fishing.

Updated list of commitments made at the 2016 Our Ocean conference.