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Thank you very much, Mr. Hanaoka, for that kind introduction.

And thanks as well to the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency for organizing this event and for all the work that has gone into developing the Charter.

Transparency in fisheries management is clearly emerging as a key theme at this conference! And rightly so.

I am so pleased to be here with you all to discuss this in more depth.

I was honored to also join the excellent event organized yesterday by Global Fishing Watch that sparked insightful discussions about what we need to support true transparency in fisheries, whether on the water, in our ports, or in our markets.

But there are clear notes of caution as we  become more acutely aware of other systemic challenges that directly affect the sustainability of our fisheries and fishing industries – whether from climate change, or the market disruptions we have seen from the global COVID-19 pandemic, or through the use of forced labor and unsafe working conditions in our seafood supply chains.

The Global Charter launched today This is a call to action for all of us to redouble our efforts to eliminate the harmful effects that IUU fishing has on the ocean, food security, vulnerable coastal communities, and the rule of law around the world.  IUU fishing is aproblem that can only be solved by strategic, concerted, and collective global action.

The types of transparency and data sharing that the Global Charter describes are essential to understand the full complexity of IUU fishing, wherever it occurs.

With better and more information – and innovative ways to share that information — we can find the vessels that are breaking the rules, penalize the owners and operators who profit from these harmful practices, and eliminate the criminal activities that are too often intertwined with IUU fishing.

This work requires the backing of governments, fisheries management organizations, civil society, and support from the private sector, including from law-abiding fishers, vessel owners and operators, and seafood processors who feel the impacts of IUU fishing in their daily lives.

U.S. Actions (Historical) 

For twenty years, the United States has been a leader in building the original toolbox for countries to address IUU fishing.

We helped lead the groundbreaking 2001 International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate IUU Fishing and other global agreements focused on monitoring, control, and compliance.

We’ve helped get the ground rules in place through treaties like the Port State Measures Agreement, led the campaign to get it into force, and encourage States to accede to the Agreement – including some who have announced their accession at the Our Ocean conferences!

We built new capacity building programs and development partnerships to support implementation of all of those “ground rules.”

And, through our Seafood Import Monitoring Program, we created new transparency and traceability requirements to confirm that U.S. imports of seafood are harvested legally and sustainably.

Our Work Today

In recent years, the United States has expanded its vision even further – recognizing the ways that IUU fishing intersected with our core national security and economic challenges.

We now understand even more clearly that addressing IUU fishing is not just about fish: it’s about human rights, it’s about climate change, it’s about how we ensure the sustainability of limited marine resources.

One way we are looking at these intersections is through the Maritime Security and Fisheries Enforcement Act, enacted at the end of 2019.

This initiative brings together all the parts of the U.S. government that have a role in managing fisheries, overseeing trade, patrolling the water, and working with our foreign partners, to achieve three key goals:

  1. To promote sustainable fisheries management globally
  2. To enhance the monitoring, control and surveillance of marine fishing operations; and
  3. To ensure that only legal, sustainable, and responsibly harvested seafood enters trade.   

This work is grounded in working with partner countries in key priority regions around the world to build regional and international cooperation, and commitment in support of sustainable and responsible seafood.

But this isn’t just a U.S. government effort; we recognize the  essential role of public-private partnerships to support these goals, including leveraging the groundbreaking new technologies and tools that non-governmental organizations and the seafood industry itself have developed to pinpoint bad actors and support sustainable supply chains.

Those partnerships are also essential in driving action internationally.

IUU Fishing Action Alliance  

That is why we were so excited to launch the IUU Fishing Action Alliance last June with Canada and the United Kingdom, designed to build political ambition in this urgent fight against IUU fishing.

The idea behind the Alliance is simple: members make a clear pledge to take urgent action to improve the monitoring, control, and surveillance of fisheries, increase transparency in fishing fleets and in the seafood market, and build new partnerships that will close the net on bad actors.

Since its launch on the margins of last year’s UN Ocean Conference, the Alliance has grown – and as we’ve already heard announced at this Conference, is growing even more! – to include more countries and non-governmental supporters, including many of the organizations that make up the Coalition for Fisheries Transparency.

Together, we can take this momentum forward to push for others to make the strong commitments – and take the concrete actions – we need to see.

International Tools  

We know, as is highlighted in the new Charter, we already have many of the international tools we need.  Through the Port State Measures Agreement, we have a powerful tool to prevent IUU-caught fish from entering our ports and markets.

Through the Global Record, we have an easily accessible tool for verifying the identity of fishing vessels and what they are authorized to be doing.

Through a network of regional monitoring, control, and surveillance measures and trade tools like catch documentation schemes, we have a way to share information and increase transparency on the water and in the marketplace.

And we have a whole suite of international best practices, including the new FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Transshipment, to turn to as we develop our own national rules and standards to support our efforts.

Of course, these tools can only work if a majority of countries commit to using them, and if we work together to supporting the ability of all to fully engage and implement these agreements.

Governments and civil society must continue to build the energy, cooperation, and action we need to ensure these agreements and initiatives can build a more transparent – and sustainable – global fishing industry.

I have been inspired by my time here in Panama – We have much to do, but lots of smart, dedicated people to do it.

I am looking forward to learning more from the rest of the speakers this evening about how these issues are being tackled around the world, and how we can work more effectively together to achieve our goal.

Thank you very much.

U.S. Department of State

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