Biden signs memorandum on illegal fishing practices – The Organization for World Peace
June 27e, President Joe Biden signed a national security memorandum to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices. It is part of a commitment by US officials to introduce policies against illegal fishing in the Indo-Pacific to counter China’s growing influence. Several countries in the region say Chinese ships frequently violate their 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones, causing environmental and economic damage. The memorandum will help these countries take action against alleged violations.
A White House statement outlines the memorandum’s approach. First, the United States will form an alliance with Canada and the United Kingdom to “take urgent action to improve monitoring, control and surveillance” of illegal fishing. Additional measures include the publication of a “proposed rule to improve and strengthen [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s] ability to tackle IUU fishing activities and tackle forced labor in the seafood supply chain.”
The full White House strategy will be released by the end of July in the “Five-Year National Strategy to Combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing (2022-2026)” and will prioritize collaboration with the seafood industry, academia, non-governmental stakeholders and other governments such as Ecuador, Panama, Senegal, Taiwan and Vietnam.
In a Reuters briefing, senior U.S. administration officials said the memorandum did not target any specific country, but nonetheless singled out the People’s Republic of China as one of the biggest offenders. “The PRC is one of the biggest contributors to IUU fishing globally and has hindered progress in developing measures to combat IUU fishing and overfishing in international organizations,” an official said. “The PRC has a responsibility to uphold these commitments as a flag state and to actively monitor and correct…the activities of the fishing fleet in other countries’ waters.”
It’s hard to tell whether these statements are made out of sincere concern for the impact of illegal fishing or out of agitation over China’s bid for dominance in the Indo-Pacific. Either way, the memorandum will provide victim nations with greater means to respond to violations. Centering the voices of victims is an important first step in addressing any injustice, so specifically naming countries like Taiwan, which ranks sixth in the world on the IUU Fishing Index, shows a commitment to providing these countries with the resources needed to solve their problems. As long as U.S. actions remain focused on ending illegal fishing practices, instead of fighting China as has been implied, it could make a major difference in diminishing the effects of IUU fishing. When serious environmental and economic consequences are imminent, global influence is not at stake, and U.S. efforts should take this into account.
China plays such a prominent role in IUU discussions because more than 300 complaints have been filed against the country’s illegal activities in the South China Sea. This includes an event in November 2021 in which the Philippines abandoned a resupply mission after three Chinese Coast Guard ships blocked and fired water cannons at supply boats. More recently, the Philippines claimed that Chinese Coast Guard vessels followed Philippine boats on a resupply mission. Both incidents occurred at the Second Thomas Shoal, claimed by both the Philippines and China and located 105 nautical miles off the Philippine province of Palawan. Nations like the Philippines must resist China’s attempts to assert global dominance, and the memorandum will provide them with the resources to do so.
Illegal fishing has overtaken piracy as the main threat to global maritime security and risks heightening tensions between countries competing for overexploited fish stocks, according to the US Coast Guard. It is vital that efforts such as those promised in the memorandum are made to mitigate the damage caused by IUU fishing. At the same time, it is equally important that the United States does not contribute to the escalation of tensions predicted by the Coast Guard. To achieve this balance, attacking China cannot be the main motivation for the United States to end illegal fishing. IUU fishing can be devastating to the economic livelihoods of many people and can cause significant environmental damage. Saving people and the environment from harm should be more than enough reason to oppose illegal fishing practices, and future actions taken by the United States should be in this cause.