Congress Takes Aim at Illegal, Unregulated Fishing

NFI testifies about need for even playing field, universally enforceable rules

Today the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans heard testimony about illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and considered efforts to reduce the worldwide shark catch.

These are important discussions, said Stetson Tinkham, National Fisheries Institute (NFI) Director of International Affairs. Worldwide we often hear about countries that are committed to cracking down on IUU, but in the end, even if the political
will is there, the capacity to uphold those commitments sometimes does not exist.

Tinkham testified before the committee that the U.S. fishing industry is subject to multiple layers of regulations that harvesters, processors and retailers are working hard to comply with. But that foreign competitors are often not subject to the same rules.

When the playing field is not level our product becomes less competitive, both in the domestic market and in markets abroad, said Tinkham. Its important to ask when putting new regulations in place: can U.S. product caught under these rules compete with foreign product? Our fisheries continue to be a model of legal management and sustainability; lets not accidentally punish them.

The panel also heard testimony about efforts to reduce the worldwide shark catch and stop finning– when sharks are caught, their prized fins are removed and their bodies thrown back. The United States already has some of the toughest shark-finning laws on record, but a bill now before the committee would allow U.S. officials to take actions against countries that have less stringent regulations and could potentially include a ban on imports.

While finning is an abhorrent practice, NFI is concerned that the bill, as drafted, could unintentionally prevent trade in legally caught sharks, Tinkham said. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration should be consulted before any rules are made to ensure fisheries that are doing a good job are not impacted.

For more than 60 years, the National Fisheries Institute (NFI) and its members have provided American families with the variety of sustainable seafood essential to a healthy diet. For more information visit:

Contact Information

Gavin Gibbons
(703) 752-8891