Recirculating Aquaculture System - Wikimedia Commons

USA - Key Trends Impacting Fisheries and Aquaculture in the United States

What Is Happening? An increased focus on climate change and environmental stewardship is rapidly changing the legal and regulatory landscape affecting the fisheries and aquaculture industries, and agencies and legislators aim to address the challenges and opportunities that affect these industries.

Who Is Impacted? Fishermen, seafood companies, fishing communities, and vessel owners will be most directly impacted by these rising trends. Ultimately, industries whose work relies in any way upon fisheries will be affected.

What Should I Do? Stakeholders should continue to track such initiatives that may impact their short-term and long-term goals and operations.

Below is an in-depth discussion of the various trends affecting the fisheries and aquaculture industries.

Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing) undermines national and international regulations that seek to sustainably manage ecosystems and ocean resources, thereby affecting the fishing industry as a whole. To counter the threats of IUU fishing, Congress passed the 2020 Maritime Security and Fisheries Enforcement (SAFE) Act, which among other things, created an Interagency Working Group composed of a number of member agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), that play key roles in eliminating IUU fishing.

Members of the Interagency Working Group have continued their collaborative enforcement efforts as seen through the continuation of the Ocean Maritime Security Initiative led by the Coast Guard and Navy. The Department of Justice has also pursued cases recently in collaboration with other Interagency Working Group members. Some of these cases include:

  • An IUU enforcement action in the Bahamas where a U.S. District Court in Key West required an individual to forfeit his new boat in restitution for capturing 529 pounds of reef fish without a license in Bahamian waters, and for previously selling illegally sourced fish.
  • A federal grand jury indicted a fishing captain, a fishing dealer, and other affiliated individuals for their involvement in crimes including conspiracy, fraud, and obstruction of justice. The charges stemmed from the defendants’ catching, buying, and selling at least $250,000 worth of fish beyond the catch quota; failing to disclose accurate catch size to NOAA; and withholding certain documents sought by the federal grand jury.

These cases demonstrate the importance of accurately reporting catch sizes, understanding legal fish sourcing prior to purchase, and cooperating with the court. Such enforcement actions also depict an interagency approach to combatting IUU fishing which appears to be a growing trend in regulating the fisheries and aquaculture industry.

Ocean Plastics

With over 11 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean each year, ocean plastics have been highlighted in both the international and domestic fora. In December 2017, the Third United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA-3) adopted a resolution focused on marine litter and microplastics in the ocean. The resolution established an Ad Hoc Open-Ended Expert Group to determine options for an international legally binding mechanism to combat ocean plastics and litter.

Read more.