Twenty-five global NGOs, including Human Rights at Sea, have united to affirm their stance against illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing in an official letter to Secretary John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.

Human Rights at Sea founder and CEO David Hammond is among the chief executive signatories urging Mr Kerry to realign the US government’s efforts to oppose IUU fishing ahead of the Our Ocean Conference 2022 in April.

Signed by leaders of conservation, human rights, and labour rights organisations, the letter establishes a link between IUU fishing, forced labour, and human rights abuses at sea and in seafood supply chains.

IUU fishing has been described as one of the most severe problems affecting world fisheries, threatening ecosystems, economic security, and natural resources.

By violating international fishing regulations, the illegal fishing activities disadvantage fishermen and seafood producers who abide by the law. According to US navy secretary Carlos Del Toro, IUU fishing has replaced piracy as the global maritime security threat.

Initiated by ocean conservation NGO Oceana, the letter highlights the opportunity the US government has to combat these issues by ensuring full traceability and transparency in the global seafood supply chain.

Organisational signatories have encouraged Mr Kerry to back an executive order or presidential memorandum to:

  • Exert White House level leadership to expedite action in combatting IUU fishing
  • Close the US market to all IUU seafood products by a specified date
  • Improve Seafood Import Monitoring Program implementation and enforcement
  • Update the US government definition of IUU fishing and strengthen associated diplomatic mechanisms
  • Require transparency through automatic identification systems (AIS) on all US flagged vessels above a certain size
  • Prioritise working with interagency partners to stop forced labour and human rights abuses within seafood supply chains.
HRAS comment

“The links between IUU activities and egregious human rights abuses towards crew are clear, and so the pressure to end human rights abuse at sea must continue unabated by being relentlessly pursued at state and commercial levels.” HRAS CEO David Hammond said.

“Engagement with the US Government, as well as other state authorities around the globe willing to address abuses at sea, is a principal route in achieving justice for victims and their families.”

Download and read the Letter

Photo credit: Jeremy Bezanger.