What is IUU fishing?
Hint: It’s NOT Indiana University’s Urban fishing team.
When I ask my fellow fishing peeps what IUU stands for, I get a blank stare like I’ve just requested an equation in quantum mechanics. It’s an unfamiliar term that we should all know. IUU stands for Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing. According to estimates, it may account for as much as one-fifth of the global seafood catch, at an estimated value of $10-23.5 billion per year. That’s a lot of black market sushi, my friend.
The vast majority of fishermen I know are highly responsible. We use circle hooks. We only catch the legal limit and we advocate catch-and-release. That’s the good news. The bad news is that while we’re all being the goody two shoes, there are thousands of slime balls out there raping our oceans. And we all suffer because of it.
The obvious problem is the vastness of the high seas. They are a sort of global commons that are difficult to police. And monitoring the entire water planet would take more drones than Amazon can fly. Add to that the fact that some rogue nations actually support illegal fishing fleets and you’ve got more problems than Donald Trump’s PR firm.
Consider just a few of the negative impacts of IUU fishing. One, it makes science-based fisheries management impossible because it throws quotas out of whack. Two, it torpedoes revenues from legit operations. Three, it promotes illegal employment and human rights abuse. And the list goes on. But the worst effect is that is blows up the core concept of sustainability.
Responsible chefs are only cooking sustainable seafood now. Responsible fishing folks are focused on sustainable fisheries. And, responsible commercial fishermen abide by theirs quotas. That’s all wonderful. But, unless we battle IUU fishing, all of our efforts could be lost. To make matter worse, IUU fishing is a growing, not shrinking problem. It is getting worse as the population grows and our appetite for seafood increases.
It’s high time those of us who follow the rules start raging against those who abuse the rules. Somebody call Google. They can fix anything. But until that happens, hang on to your fighting chair because we’re going to start raising hell about this. It’s about time somebody did.