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WWF Applauds Passage of Legislation to Curb Illegal Fishing

Senate Commerce Bill Codifies WWF Recommendations to Ensure Productive, Sustainable Commercial Fisheries

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2008 – World Wildlife Fund (WWF) applauded the passage of legislation today by the Senate Commerce Committee that would significantly improve fisheries monitoring and enforcement.

The legislation, S. 2907, International Fisheries Stewardship and Enforcement Act, would help end destructive fishing practices, including illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, said Bill Fox, WWF vice president of fisheries. The legislation would address concerns raised in three recent reports issued by WWF and TRAFFIC on illegal fishing and would implement many of the recommendations outlined in the reports. The bill passed the Commerce Committee by unanimous consent.

Fox hailed the bill’s passage as an important step forward for fisheries management. “Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is threatening the collapse of regional fisheries and the economies that depend on them, and is driving various fish species to unprecedented low levels. S. 2097 will bolster the sustainability of the world’s fisheries by establishing an enforcement protocol that has real teeth and robust funding,” said Fox.

In the past year, WWF and TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade monitoring program of WWF and IUCN-the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, have issued a series of reports on improving fisheries management and addressing IUU fishing. A 2007 report, Catching On? Trade-related measures as a fisheries management tool, examined the marked increase in the use of trade-related measures by regional fishery management organizations over the past decade. Another TRAFFIC report published in 2007, Trading Tails: Linkages between Russian salmon fisheries and East Asian market, examined inconsistencies in trade reporting, and recommended a package of measures to bring the Far East salmon fishery and its market under control.

And earlier this year, WWF published a report, Illegal Fishing in Arctic Waters: Catch of Today - Gone Tomorrow? that examined IUU fishing in the Barents Sea and the Sea of Okhotsk and outlined five key recommendations for addressing the problem: improving coordination and communications among enforcement entities; banning transshipments on “flag of convenience” vessels; strengthening international cooperation among coastal, flag and port states; increasing penalties for IUU fishing; and implementing mandatory traceability systems.

S. 2907 would codify many of the recommendations contained in the three reports. Specifically, it would consolidate enforcement authority, making it easier to ensure compliance with laws and treaties; ensure greater traceability of seafood products; increase penalties for violation of IUU laws and regulations; combat fraudulent labeling of seafood; and establish a blacklist of vessels known to engage in IUU activities.

The legislation would also increase funding for enforcement activities. Crawford Allan, director of TRAFFIC North America, applauded the funding increase: “We are very pleased with the substantial boost in law enforcement funding that would be provided under this bill. Laws and treaties designed to ensure the sustainability and protection of species are of limited value when there are insufficient resources to enforce compliance.”

In a letter yesterday to Senators Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Stevens (R-Alaska) – the chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the Commerce Committee – Jason Patlis, WWF vice president for U.S. government relations, expressed support for the funding authorized in the bill, but stressed the importance of securing annual funding from the Appropriations Committee, on which both Inouye and Stevens serve. “The $30 million authorized in section 201(e) is to be applauded, and WWF stands ready to work with you in support of securing necessary appropriations in order to ensure that the strong measures contained in this legislation are equally strong in practice throughout the oceans of the world,” he wrote.

 

 

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For more than 45 years, WWF has been protecting the future of nature. The largest multinational conservation organization in the world, WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level, from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature. Go to worldwildlife.org to learn more.