NOAA has released its annual report to US Congress to combat illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing and human rights abuses in the seafood supply chain.

The report identifies 31 nations and entities for IUU fishing activities and bycatch of protected marine life on the high seas, where nations lack conservation measures comparable to those of the United States.

The report contains several key findings, according to NOAA, including evidence that China, Costa Rica, Guyana, Mexico, the Russian Federation, Senegal and Taiwan all operated vessels engaged in IUU fishing activities between 2018-2020.

Several other countries and blocs, including the European Union, Japan and the Republic of Korea were all identified as lacking a regulatory program comparable in effectiveness to the United States to reduce the bycatch of protected marine life in their fishing operations.

Some nations or entities were identified for both IUU fishing and bycatch activities.

The 2021 report also announced certification determinations for nations identified for IUU fishing activities in the 2019.

Mexico, which received a negative certification for IUU fishing activities identified in 2019, was cited again for failing to curb the flow of small vessels fishing illegally in the US waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

As a result, Mexican fishing vessels will be denied entry into US ports and Mexico could face import restrictions on seafood.

In contrast, Ecuador and the Republic of Korea received positive certification determinations for taking actions to remedy the IUU fishing activities for which they were identified in 2019, according to the report.

In May Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife, and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the "Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act."

This legislation would link IUU fishing to forced labor in the seafood supply chain and make seafood import monitoring more effective, the lawmakers said.

The United States is the largest seafood importer in the world, and despite efforts to deny illegally and unethically harvested seafood access to US markets, a report by the US International Trade Commission found nearly 11 percent of total US seafood imports in 2019, worth $2.4 billion (€2 billion), were products of illegal or unreported fishing.

The report also estimated that if IUU imports were prevented, US fishers could increase their income by an estimated $60.8 million (€57.6 million).