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Combating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing with Ocean Science and Technology

Concept statement for a collaborative pilot project to address IUU fishing.


Over the last 50 years, average yearly consumption of seafood per capita has exponentially risen from two to 44 pounds (FAO, 2016). The rapid increase in consumption rates has had a profound impact on domestic and international fisheries. Presently, 90 percent of the world’s fisheries are considered over exploited or unsustainably caught. As countries attempt to mitigate these negative impacts with increased regulation and oversight, it compounds with illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing. IUU fishing has been documented to account for up to 26 million tons of fish a year, or more than 20 percent of the world’s total annual capture fisheries output. IUU fishing presents challenges to national, homeland, food, and economic security around the world. These illegal activities have been linked to international conflicts and crime, collapses of fish stocks and ecosystems, seafood fraud, job loss, and human rights violations. Taking proactive steps to combat these activities allows us to address the broad range of issues which stem from IUU fishing.


Most methods to mitigate or terminate illegal fishing practices have proven to be unsuccessful due to difficulties pinpointing exact locations of vulnerable fish populations and active IUU fishing.  A multidisciplinary approach involving legislative action, ocean science research, and increased use of emerging and existing technology could address the threats of IUU fishing. The Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL) is seeking to create a pilot project in an area susceptible to the negative impacts of IUU fishing practices. COL would partner with academic and technological organizations involved with ocean observations to enhance tracking of migration patterns and population dynamics of highly valued fish and add surveillance capabilities to existing or newly deployed ocean monitoring instruments. Existing technologies, such as ocean and wave gliders, buoys and moorings, scouts, remotely operated underwater vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles, show promise in aiding nations’ abilities to obtain a clearer picture of the state of our ocean’s fisheries and activities occurring outside of national jurisdictions.

Increased data collection enhances maritime domain awareness and provides information on areas vulnerable to overfishing and lead to improved enforcement by allowing agents to monitor valued stocks and combat potential IUU fishing activities while benefiting recreational and commercial fisheries trade. Overall, this project could enhance data collection, planning, and execution to coordinate and exercise response and mitigation opportunities. Additionally, it would ensure effective use of resources.


COL is uniquely positioned to shepherd the implementation of a pilot project to improve and incentivize technology and data sharing from various sources to address IUU fishing issues. COL represents the leading ocean science and technology institutions— public and private, academia, aquaria, and industry. COL’s mission, on behalf of its members, is focused around neutral, science‐based advocacy and promotion of science, convening the ocean science and stakeholder communities, and support and interagency facilitation for U.S. federal ocean governance. Our community‐based role and reputation in Washington, D.C. have led to strong, effective relationships and partnerships with federal agencies. COL has a direct link to the informational and collaborative resources needed for an IUU fishing pilot project.

Potentially supporting COL in this pilot project are numerous member institutions of the organization, including:

  • Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)
  • Hopkins Marine Station
  • Animal Telemetry Network (US Integrated Ocean Observing System)
  • ESRI—Geographic Information System Services
  • Liquid Robotics, Inc.
  • Sea-Bird Scientific
  • Teledyne RD Instruments

Utilizing current collaborations with our member institutions, as well as seeking new partners will be critical to maintaining our national, homeland, food, and economic securities. There are many ways to embrace ocean science to mitigate security risk in the U.S. and abroad. Collaboration and cooperation across the ocean science and technology communities are critical to our ability to understand and respond to the associated challenges and opportunities.

Associated website: link
Timeframe: Feb. 01, 2017 -
Project Status: Ongoing
Contact: Kruti Desai
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Thematic Focus: Industry and Market Incentives, Enforcement, Governance and Management
Geographic Areas: Global
Activity Type: Project
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