Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing is a global problem that removes 32 million tons of seafood from the ocean each year – as much as one-quarter of the seafood eaten worldwide. It contributes to overfishing and threatens the livelihoods and food security of coastal fishing communities. And technology used to track illegal fishing has identified cases of forced labor linked to these vessels. Eliminating IUU fishing requires global, coordinated solutions. If only one country bans the trade of illegal seafood, that product can easily be diverted to countries where no such laws exist.

In December, Japan passed a new law requiring domestically caught wild seafood to have catch documentation and imported wild seafood to have a certificate of legal catch from a foreign government. This win was the result of a five-year campaign by a group of international and Japanese conservation organizations called the Anti-IUU Forum Japan. “This new framework will eliminate IUU fishing risks from the Japanese seafood market and allow operators doing the right things to be justly recognized,” said Wakao Hanaoka, CEO of Forum member Seafood Legacy.

With the new law, Japan joins the US and EU – collectively representing 60% of the global seafood market – in having stringent requirements for traceable, legal seafood. Global conservation organizations celebrated this major step forward, including Forum member The Nature Conservancy, which said, “This new legislation marks a historic moment in the global fight against IUU fishing. Japan joins the EU and the US in sending a clear and strong message to illegal operators, who will now have great difficulty in finding an entry point for their illegal products in the world’s three largest seafood markets.”

There are three key lessons from the Anti-IUU Forum’s work that are applicable to advocacy efforts in other countries and on other issues:

  1. Connecting across continents was essential but challenging.
  2. Before Japanese businesses and governments could embrace a solution to IUU fishing, they had to understand its impact on Japan.
  3. Focusing on the law’s benefits for domestic fishers in Japan helped to strengthen support.

Read the full article about unregulated and unreported fishing by Eri Oki at The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.