Caribbean countries discuss strategies to fight IUU fishing


Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has become a scourge of the “blue economy,” contributing to the depletion of global fish stocks.

In the Caribbean, many countries are classified as “fish dependent” and IUU fishing has a large impact on the region’s food security, according to a July 19, 2021, report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The report said local catches have decreased because of IUU actors, forcing some nations to increase imports of seafood and impose catch quotas.

“It is our quest in the Caribbean to partner with all international agencies to ensure that we reduce criminal activities when it comes to the blue economy,” St. Vincent and the Grenadines Fisheries Minister Saboto Caesar said during a recent meeting on IUU fishing, according to a March 22, 2022, report from the Caribbean Media Corp. (CMC) news service.

Caesar is chair of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).

According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem.”

IUU fishing accounts for nearly one-third of all ocean fishing, with 90% of the global fish stock already fully exploited, overexploited or depleted, according to the United Nations.

“We intend to work with regional and international partners and other friendly governments … because every member state in the global community must play an important role,” Caesar told the virtual meeting organized by the CRFM.

One such partner is the United States Coast Guard (USCG), which helps Caribbean partners detect, deter and identify IUU fishing, which USCG Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz has called the “leading global maritime security threat.” The USCG leads an international effort to combat illegal exploitation of fish stocks as spelled out in its IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook.

(Pictured: The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stone observes fishing activity in the South Atlantic in 2021.)

The March 2022 CRFM meeting, which gathered senior fisheries and maritime law enforcement officers, marked a milestone in the Caribbean’s effort in “collectively combating the scourge of crime connected with the fishing sector.” Officials cited the support of international partners such as the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) under its Blue Justice Initiative, according to the CMC story.

In October 2021, during a high-level meeting of CRFM ministers, 12 member states — including the Bahamas — signed the International Declaration on Transnational Organized Crime in the Global Fishing Industry, also known as the Copenhagen Declaration. They have since endorsed the Blue Justice Initiative, which supports developing countries in operationalizing the Copenhagen Declaration, which is aimed at “promoting a sustainable and fair blue economy for all that is free from fisheries crime,” according to the CMC.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the largest contributor to IUU fishing worldwide, according to the IUU Fishing Index, which ranks countries based on enforcement practices. IUU fishing accounts for nearly one-third of all ocean fishing, with 90% of the global fish stock already fully exploited, overexploited or depleted, according to the U.N.