Biden, NOAA announce new actions on illegal fishing

President Biden on Monday signed a national security memo aimed at addressing illegal fishing in international waters.

The memo seeks to increase international coordination to address labor issues in the fishing industry and remove labor abuses from the supply chain, according to a White House fact sheet.

It also aims to restrict the market for the products of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and forced labor.

During this week’s United Nations (U.N.) Ocean Conference, the Biden administration is also poised to announce an alliance with the United Kingdom and Canada to combat fishing that is illegal or goes unreported.

In conjunction with the memo, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Monday issued a proposed rule to address forced labor and other labor rights issues in the seafood industry.

Under the new rule, “we are making our definition of IUU fishing consistent with that of the [U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization],” a National Security Council official told reporters on a press call Monday.

This proposal will allow U.S. officials to craft definitions that incorporate both the use of forced labor and comparable fishing laws between the U.S. and other nations, an official said.

Meanwhile, a U.S. interagency working group comprised of 21 federal agencies is currently finalizing a five-year plan to address IUU fishing, officials said on the call.

The group will work with Ecuador, Panama, Senegal, Taiwan and Vietnam, according to the official, who said each of them has “expressed a willingness to work with the United States to combat IUU fishing in their countries.” The plan is set for release by the end of July.

Industry and lawmakers have long pushed the Biden administration to take action on illegal fishing, calling it a national security and economic issue.

Earlier this month, Reps. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Garret Graves (R-La.) urged Biden to “send a clear message on the world stage that the U.S. is a leader in addressing illegal fishing and forced labor by announcing new regulations for illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing” ahead of the conference.

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