On the Hook: How the United States Enables Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing

Crates of freshly caught shrimp sitting in loading crates on a dock


Aman Bhargava

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is any fishing conducted in conflict with or outside of laws regulating seafood harvest. IUU fishing jeopardizes the health of the world’s fish populations, harms marine habitats, and threatens food and national security. The United States has publicly committed to fighting IUU fishing in order to protect both the health of our oceans and the livelihoods of honest fishermen. Unfortunately, while the United States has strong fisheries management and enforcement that largely prevents IUU fishing in its own waters, U.S. consumers unwittingly buy massive amounts of imported IUU-fished seafood each year, making the country a major driver of global IUU fishing.

To understand how the United States can stop the flow of IUU-fished seafood into its commerce stream, NRDC conducted in-depth research of the U.S. seafood import process at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach from 2016 to 2019. Our research revealed that the United States is currently ill equipped to effectively stop IUU-fished and fraudulently labeled shipments from entering the country. But, with enhanced resources, leadership, and coordination, the United States can dramatically improve detection and interdiction of IUU seafood imports, and in so doing, shut down a top market destination for IUU-fished and fraudulent seafood products.

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