President Biden signs National Security Memorandum on illegal fishing

President Joe Biden signed a memorandum this week concerning national security on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices.

Following the proclamation of June as National Ocean Month, the president, surrounded by White House representatives, emphasized the danger these practices pose in light of recent events along the country’s coasts.

“IUU fishing threatens the health and precious biodiversity of our oceans,” a White House senior administration official said in a press call, “which is also facing increasing threats posed by climate change, acidification and human pollution.”

The memorandum highlights the different strategies planned to be implemented by the White House administration. The plans involve public, private, domestic and foreign stakeholders, as well as cooperation from national security authorities in order to confront this issue.

But the main focus of the missive lies on guaranteeing a more secure maritime area internationally, and as a direct consequence, safer national waters.

“We will be launching an IUU Fishing Action Alliance to bring together countries to commit a pledge to take urgent action against IUU fishing,” the official said. “This will help us in the international implementation of the actions outlined in the National Security Memorandum.”

Although in the background, held with slightly the same importance as the previous talking point, the Biden-Harris administration will direct its focus secondly towards the strengthening of ethical behavior in international and national waters.

The memorandum will look to oversee an end to abusive and negligent labor practices, many of which have happened in South Florida. Earlier this year, in fact, research conducted by students at Florida International University revealed that at least seven pharmaceuticals were found on numerous bonefish circling through the Florida Keys and Biscayne Bay waters.

The study was performed over three years. Its shocking results show pharmaceuticals in bonefish. These include prostate treatment medications, pain relievers and blood pressure medications, as stated by one of the researchers.

Another study conducted by researchers from the Journal Fisheries Research last month showed that snapper and grouper species are the most affected by overfishing, which has been prevalent along the South Florida’s coasts. Eighty-five percent of these species fall victim to these practices, making it a daunting task for them to sustain themselves in the wild.

The memorandum will allow supervision from the U.S Interagency Working Group on Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing, the group composed of another 21 Federal agencies will issue a five-year strategic plan to fight these practices.

Along with the governments of Ecuador, Panama, Senegal, Taiwan and Vietnam joining the group, the main goal of the coalition is to halt illegal fishing activities and combat forced labor in these countries.

White House representatives, along with Biden, agree this investment will have a positive influence on the security of U.S. maritime safety.

“We cannot combat IUU fishing alone; it is a global problem,” the official said. “It is involved in the value chain that feeds not only the U.S. market but other important markets.”

Although the memorandum’s main focus is the protection of international waters, the Biden-Harris administration argues this decision is to “conserve and restore the health and productivity of the ocean for the benefit of all Americans.”

Humberto is a junior at Florida International University. He reports on issues around politics in South Florida and Latin-America.