T H E  C O M M A N D A N T
of the United States Coast Guard

At-sea enforcement of the Nation’s living marine resource laws is an enduring U.S. Coast Guard mission. Working with our partners in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, our enforcement efforts have upheld the biological and economic sustainability of our Nation’s marine fisheries. The benefits of this mission abound: fishermen’s livelihoods are protected, ports in which catch is distributed remain economically robust, and U.S. seafood consumers are able to support an industry dedicated to the long-term sustainability of U.S. fisheries.

Yet not all maritime nations have the capability to surveil their sovereign waters or the moral conscience to police their fleets; this lack of shared responsibility creates opportunities for exploitation in the form of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. This exploitation erodes both regional and national security, undermines maritime rules-based order, jeopardizes food access and availability, and destroys legitimate economies.

IUU fishing has replaced piracy as the leading global maritime security threat. If IUU fishing continues unchecked, we can expect deterioration of fragile coastal States and increased tension among foreign-fishing Nations, threatening geo-political stability around the world.

The 2017 United States National Security Strategy outlines the impacts of these global threats, highlighting the importance of the rule of law, respect for sovereignty, and freedom of the seas to ensure the security of the United States and like-minded partners. This IUU Fishing Strategic Outlook announces the U.S. Coast Guard’s commitment to leading a global effort to combat illegal exploitation of the ocean’s fish stocks and protect our national interests. This Outlook establishes three lines of effort critical to achieving success: (1) Promote targeted, effective, intelligence-driven enforcement operations, (2) Counter predatory and irresponsible State behavior, and (3) Expand multilateral fisheries enforcement cooperation.

The U.S Coast Guard is prepared to take an enhanced leadership role in this effort, but we will not be successful alone. Playing to our strengths of working with intergovernmental and international partners, we seek to galvanize a coalition to confront coercive and antagonistic activity together and uphold our shared peaceful and humanitarian values. We know such international cooperation works: for 25 years, the six nations which contribute to the enforcement efforts of Operation North Pacific Guard have confronted illegal high seas driftnet fishing operations. Our collective efforts have been overwhelmingly successful in nearly eliminating illegal high seas driftnet fishing in the North Pacific Ocean.

Working collaboratively, we will expand a network of like-minded partners and bring light to the shadows where IUU fishing exists worldwide. Together, we will strengthen global maritime security, regional stability, and economic prosperity.

Semper Paratus
Admiral Karl L. Schultz

Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing is a pervasive, far-reaching security threat


1 in 5 fish

Caught around the world is thought to have originated from IUU fishing.1


3.3 billion

People, nearly half the world’s population, rely on fish for 20% of their animal protein.2 IUU fishing removes access to this valuable protein source, particularly to the most vulnerable coastal States.


$401 billion

First sale value of global fish production in 2018.2 IUU Fishing results in tens of billions of dollars of lost revenue to legal fishers every year.




Of the world’s major marine fish stocks are classified as fully exploited, overexploited, or significantly depleted.2 IUU fishing undermines the sustainable management of these resources, pushing them to the limits of their capacity.





Of fish eaten in the U.S. are imported.1 Without effective traceability and monitoring, illegally caught fish around the world can enter the U.S. market.



$5.6 billion

Value of U.S. commercial fisheries in 2018. When IUU fish enter the marketplace, legal U.S. fishers are disadvantaged.3




  1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2020). Fishwatch: U.S. Seafood Facts. Retrieved from www.fishwatch.gov/ sustainable-seafood/the-global-picture
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (2020). The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture. Rome. doi:10.4060/ca9229en
  3. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2020, February 21). Fisheries of the United States, 2018. Retrieved from NOAA Fisheries: www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/fisheries-united-states-2018

Today's Realities


Healthy fish stocks underpin the food security of coastal communities, maritime regions, and entire nation-states. The sustainable harvest of these resources is directly linked to economic security – both for the United States and for nations around the globe, many of whom rely on revenue from fish for substantial portions of their gross domestic product. However, today the world’s fish stocks are under stress not only from growing consumption demand and changing ecosystems, but also from deliberate efforts to exploit gaps in existing governance structures. Illegal transshipment operations, heavily-subsidized distant water fishing fleets, and nations who choose to systematically engage in IUU fishing amplify these stressors and catalyze additional criminal activity which further undermines maritime rules-based order.

U. S. Coast Guard’s Enduring Role in Combatting IUU Fishing


The U.S. Coast Guard has been the lead agency in the United States for at-sea enforcement of living marine resource laws for more than 150 years. As the only agency with the infrastructure and authority to project a law enforcement presence throughout the 3.36 million square mile U.S. EEZ and in key areas of the high seas, the U.S. Coast Guard is uniquely positioned to combat IUU fishing and uphold the rule of law at sea.

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Promote Targeted, Effective, Intelligence-Driven Enforcement Operations

The U.S. Coast Guard will enable, support, and inform counter-IUU fishing operations, including through the innovative use of intelligence, technology, data analysis, and information sharing in order to eliminate the shadows where illicit actors thrive.


Counter Predatory and Irresponsible State Behavior

The U.S. Coast Guard will prioritize operations and engagement that solidify U.S. commitment and model responsible behavior, confront the deleterious actions of near-peer competitors.


Expand Multilateral Fisheries Enforcement Cooperation

The U.S. Coast Guard will sustain and strengthen bilateral and multilateral partnerships with like-minded, capable nations to maximize the impact of collective counter-IUU enforcement efforts and promote the rule of law.


The peace and prosperity of the United States requires a capable, innovative, and effective U.S. Coast Guard to combat the destabilizing effects of IUU fishing. Ensuring the safety, security, and stewardship of the maritime domain is an enduring U.S. Coast Guard mission.


Promote Targeted, Effective, Intelligence-Driven Enforcement Operations.

U.S. Coast Guard at-sea enforcement operations enhance maritime governance by detecting and deterring IUU fishing on the high seas. By documenting and reporting IUU fishing activity, U.S. Coast Guard efforts enliven the process for RFMOs and the international community to hold flag States accountable to address IUU fishing by their vessels. The U.S. Coast Guard will coordinate across the U.S. Government to target areas susceptible to IUU fishing and otherwise increase our law enforcement presence on the high seas and in the EEZs of partner nations.


Counter Predatory and Irresponsible State Behavior.

The U.S. Coast Guard will prioritize operations and engagement in areas where our efforts are most critical to demonstrate U.S. commitment and model responsible behavior. The U.S. Coast Guard will shine a light on the activities of those who violate international rules-based order, exposing and holding accountable the most egregious predatory actors.


Expand Multilateral Fisheries Enforcement Cooperation.

The U.S. Coast Guard will build and maintain lasting cooperation with key partners to empower regional resource conservation and management. Working with U.S. and international partners, the U.S. Coast Guard will assist at-risk coastal States and like-minded nations to develop and maintain their own robust counter-IUU fishing capacity, bolstering their governance and enforcement systems and affirming the United States as a preferred partner. Through targeted, persistent, and collaborative efforts, we will sustain and strengthen connections with partner nations supporting international oceans governance.

Ensuring Long-Term Success


In addition to the specific counter-IUU fishing strategic objectives, there are several enabling concepts that are critical for the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure long-term success: