Is Your Seafood A Threat To National Security? Why The U.S. Department Of Defense Should Be Rallying To Combat Illegal Fishing

Source: The TerraMar Project - February 15, 2018 in Featured, TMP

Is Your Seafood A Threat To National Security? Why The U.S. Department Of Defense Should Be Rallying To Combat Illegal Fishing
Photo: Philippe Gabriel-Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)

When we think of National Security, the topics ‘Terrorists’, ‘Drug Trafficking’, or ‘North Korea’,  are usually what first come to mind. Likely the result of mindless mornings spent in front of a television with CNN or Fox News playing in the background.

What many don’t realize is that illegal fishing is actually among the world’s most lucrative illegal markets (behind drug and human trafficking). Unfortunately the United States as a world leader is doing an inadequate job at highlighting this threat and taking appropriate action to address the problem.

We’ve all heard of the ‘War on Drugs’ and the infamous ‘Wall’ that the Trump Administration wants to spend billions on building in an attempt to fight illegal immigration. But what the U.S. really needs now more than ever isn’t a wall on land,  it’s an Eye in the Sky to help watch over the world’s fishing industries.

A Complex Problem We Need To Address

In a recent report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center, IUU (illegal, unreported, and undocumented) fishing was found to be a significant factor to the destabilization of developing coastal nations.

And the effects of this type of illegal activity activity are clearly resounding in countries around the world.

Illegal Fishing

Photo: Brian Yurasits/The TerraMar Project

According to Sally Yozell, Director of Stimson’s Environmental Security program: “The marketplace for illegal fishing is lucrative, generating upwards of $36.4 billion annually in black-market profits, and accounts for at least one out of every five fish caught globally. Those funds fuel networks that pose threats to U.S. national security interests — from well-heeled piracy outfits to transnational drug and human trafficking rings. More can be done to combat this threat.”

If you’re someone who frequently consumes seafood, you’re helping to contribute to this complex string of illegal markets attached to illegal fishing.

This unrealized national threat not only harms people, but it’s destroying the natural world at a rapid pace. Currently 90 percent of the world’s fisheries are either fully fished, or overfished.  Illegal fishing further undermines effective management of fish stocks, and leads to economic losses on a massive scale as countries miss out on critical taxable revenue.

Not to mention that this mis-management presents serious food insecurity concerns in a world where approximately 3 Billion people rely on farmed and wild-caught fish as their primary source of protein.

illegal fishing

Photo: John Cobb/Unsplash

Unfortunately, the nations most preyed upon by this illegal market are often the same countries least equipped to fight IUU fishing and its spillover effects on local communities.

We can no longer afford to view IUU fishing as just an ‘environmental and conservation’ challenge. We need to see the full picture, in that this global industry is posing significant security threats at national, regional, and global scales. Human rights are being violated, and criminal abuses are running rampant. It’s time for the U.S. and other world powers to address these facts, and work together in a dedicated effort to combat these atrocities, and make the world a better place to people, and the marine environment.

Here are some suggested actions the U.S. Department of Defense should consider from the report:

  • Increasing engagement of Combatant Commands (COCOMS),
  • Expanding ship-rider agreements between the U.S. and foreign countries,
  • Encouraging countries to ratify, implement, and enforce the Port State Measures Agreement,
  • Dedicating resources to increase monitoring and enforcement capacities,
  • Advocating for comprehensive foreign domestic fisheries regulations and catch reporting requirements,
  • Encouraging greater transparency of the fishing industry,
  • Mandating use of Vessel Tracking Systems (VTS) to track fishing fleets,
  • Increasing data and information collection and sharing,
  • Increasing dialogue and partnerships between the U.S. government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

The world we live in is constantly changing. The oceans have been pillaged for their resources for years because we have never been able to fully understand its vastness. But with modern technologies, the sea no longer needs to be lawless.

Fishing vessels need to be held accountable for their actions, and the world needs to work together to manage the animals that live their, to ensure that future generations can enjoy it’s bounty.

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