Summary of 2017 Biennial Report to Congress / by Francisco Blaha

Every two years NOAA Fisheries presents its report to US Congress as a mandated requirement of the High Seas Driftnet Fishing Moratorium Protection Act, as amended by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Reauthorization Act.

The report highlights U.S. findings and analyses of foreign IUU fishing activities and of bycatch of protected species and shark catch on the high seas. And while a unilateral assessment (as the EU yellow cards), I find this document quite useful since it is well researched.

The US identifies countries whose fishing vessels were reported to be engaged in these activities, and consults with those countries to improve their fisheries management and enforcement practices. Nations identified for having vessels engaged in IUU fishing are required to take appropriate corrective action to address the activities described in the biennial report.

Based on information provided by nations during the consultations, the US issues a certification decision which is published in the next Report to Congress. A positive certification is issued if the nation has provided evidence of actions that address the activities for which it was identified.

If the nation cannot demonstrate sufficient action has been taken, a negative certification may be issued and the nation, which means it has not taken sufficient action to address the IUU fishing activities that formed the basis for its original identification, that nation is subject to prohibitions on fisheries product imports into the United States and denial of port privileges for its fishing vessels.

Ecuador, Mexico, and the Russian Federation were identified as having vessels reported to be engaged in IUU activity during 2014-2016. On behalf of the US, NOAA Fisheries will consult with each nation to encourage action to address these activities and improve fisheries management and enforcement practices.

The 2017 report also notes that five of six nations identified for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the 2015 report—Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Portugal—took action to address the identified issues and now have a positive certification. Mexico, while it continues to make meaningful progress, including increasing surveillance patrols, curtailing engine subsidies, and initiating enforcement cases against those individuals involved in the IUU fishing operations, has not yet fully resolved the enforcement cases, and has therefore been issued a negative certification.  NOAA Fisheries will continue to consult with Mexico toward achieving positive certification.

No nations were identified for bycatch of protected living marine resources or for shark catch on the high seas... which is always hard to prove. I guess they could get deeper in that having the power they have.