Over 85 Percent of Global Fish Stocks at Risk

29 October 2015 | World Wildlife Fund News Release

More than 85 percent of global fish stocks are at significant risk of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, according to a new report from World Wildlife Fund (WWF), underscoring that the illegal fishing epidemic spans far beyond a handful of species. The report also finds that for several ocean areas, every single species of fish is at high or moderate risk to illegal fishing.

“The US imports more than 100 different wild-caught species of fish, and the vast majority are plagued by serious problems of illegality,” said WWF Vice President for Oceans Policy Michele Kuruc. “Such extensive illegality requires a comprehensive solution that protects all species, not just a few. The long-term viability of our planet’s fisheries and ocean ecosystems requires it.”

The WWF report, Illegal Fishing: Which Fish are at Highest Risk, is a first-of-its-kind analysis of the most recent comprehensive estimates of IUU fishing combined with UN-based assessments of the health of fish stocks. The report finds that more than 85 percent of global fish stocks are at risk, with 54 percent of species groups categorized as high risk, and 32 percent at moderate risk to IUU fishing. Species affected by illegal fishing varies across the globe – from Bluefin tuna to mackerels, from snow crabs to shrimp, and hundreds of other species, the report says.

While the federal government has notably ramped up efforts to tackle illegal fishing in recent years, a proposal outlined today in the Federal Register from the US National Ocean Council (NOC) would require traceability from only a small number of fish species. According to the WWF report, a species-specific approach like the one proposed by NOC would mean the majority of illegally caught fish coming into the US will continue unchecked.

“The list of species proposed by NOC would address only about 20 percent of the IUU import problem in America. While this would certainly be a very important step forward, it doesn’t get us where we ultimately need to be,” said Kuruc. “If we are serious about addressing this issue as a country, and I believe that we are, we have to require essential information on the legal origin of catches and traceability for all species that enter the US market.”

IUU fishing is a serious threat to the sustainable management of fisheries worldwide, the report says. IUU fishing depletes fish stocks, undermines responsible management, destroys marine ecosystems, and threatens the livelihoods of coastal communities and fishermen. It has even been associated with slave labor, human rights abuses, and with drug and arms smuggling, further destabilizing vulnerable people and communities as well as the ocean environment.

“Americans want to see comprehensive solutions to the illegal fishing epidemic,” said Kuruc. “Along with the findings of this report, WWF today presented a petition to the Obama Administration signed by more than 200,000 US citizens urging action to end global illegal fishing for all species of fish.”

Media Contact
Lorin Hancock 202-495-4107 lorin.hancock@wwfus.org

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