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News | Nov. 3, 2022

U.S. Southern Command, FIU Host IUU Fishing Conference in Search of Solutions

By Steven McLoud, U.S. Southern Command Public Affairs

MIAMI – The U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), in conjunction with Florida International University (FIU), convened senior U.S. government leaders and subject matter experts from across the government, non-profits, civil society, academia, and private industry at the university’s campus Nov. 2 for talks on how to better understand information sharing initiatives and challenges, and leverage emerging technologies to counter illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and improve monitoring of the maritime domain.

Representing SOUTHCOM was U.S. Ambassador Jean Manes, the command’s Civilian Deputy to the Commander. Also on hand was Maxine Burkett, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Fisheries & Polar Affairs.

Regarded as among the greatest threats to ocean health, the United States is committed to combating IUU fishing globally. According to a National Security memorandum released on June 27 of this year, IUU fishing and related harmful fishing practices, are the causes of global overfishing, contributing to the collapse or decline of fisheries that are critical to the economic growth, food systems, and ecosystems of numerous countries around the world.

SOUTHCOM has partnered with FIU and worked with NGO Global Fishing Watch to advance awareness, detection, and deterrence of IUU fishing in the region and to further enable counter IUU fishing efforts through data sharing and subject matter exchanges.

In her closing remarks to those in attendance, Burkett touched on the threat posed by IUU fishing, but also shared her optimism on how it can be effectively countered by creating strong rules, sharing data, and holding people accountable. “By working together, we can turn the tables on those engaging in IUU fishing to ensure a safe and sustainable ocean,” she said, emphasizing the need to work together and build a robust and comprehensive approach. “By bringing together our partners who are leading the fight against IUU fishing, agencies, organizations, (and) stakeholders alike, we are raising ambition, momentum, and most importantly, action in the fight against IUU fishing.”

Echoing the deputy assistance secretary of state’s comments regarding the work being done by the U.S., Manes also noted Western Hemisphere countries have ranked IUU fishing among their top three threats to combat along with transnational criminal networks/drug traffickers and cybersecurity.

“Now is the moment to take bold action together,” Manes said. “We have a directive from the President of the United States; Secretary of State Blinken was recently in Peru discussing the importance of the issue; the U.S. agreed to support the Eastern Tropical Pacific Marine Corridor with Colombia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Panama during the Summit of the Americas; the U.S. Coast Guard has IUU fishing as the number one maritime threat; and the U.S. government just released the five-year plan to combat IUU fishing.”

She stressed increased intelligence, information sharing, and leveraging technology will be critical, warning attendees there are already countries in Africa where fish stocks have been declared “unrecoverable” before emphatically stressing the need to “prevent that from happening in the Western Hemisphere.”