Good morning, everyone. It’s a pleasure to speak with you all today.
I’d like to start by thanking Scott and the DHS team for joining us today, and for your commitment to formalizing our valuable collaboration across USAID and DHS.
Today is a clear example of how USAID partners across the U.S. Government to increase country self-reliance and resilience, all while advancing American values and interests. Today is about how we can work together to advance economic security across the Western Hemisphere.
This MOU will advance mutual efforts to build the capacity of our partner countries to detect and halt illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the Western Hemisphere.
Together, USAID and DHS are reinforcing our commitment to assist countries as they protect their coastal communities and natural resources. We are helping them build the foundation for stronger penalties against the illegal fishing done by foreign actors through distant water fleets.
The unsustainable practices that stem from this fishing undermine economic development and directly threaten the sovereignty of coastal nations. Weak governance and a lack of accountability create openings for criminal activity — from human trafficking to money laundering — that arises alongside this illegal fishing.
Overfishing on the high seas and in the exclusive economic zones of other nations undercuts international rules, norms, and conventions. It exacerbates food insecurity, it harms the environment, and it threatens the personal livelihoods of traditional fishing communities.
The vessels involved in illegal fishing are also a nexus for crime, from smuggling to human trafficking. These distant water fleets controlled or subsidized by malign actors are also often connected to other criminal networks.
If allowed to continue at its current rate, illegal fishing will threaten global maritime security and the stability and development of coastal nations. That’s why we developed this MOU with DHS, in order to advance a unified response that addresses these negative economic and political impacts.
Specifically, this MOU helps us jointly address three challenges.
One is the invasion of coastal community reefs by foreign vessels that lack legal authority and that overharvest catches.
The second is the lack of maritime law enforcement in situations of overfishing, human rights violations, and criminal behavior.
The third is the need to increase global awareness of these vast human and labor rights violations, as well as the human trafficking and money laundering that also occur. All of these are critical law enforcement issues.
We must address the systemic drivers of illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. USAID’s approach combines the enforcement of regulations on fisheries with community empowerment to report illegal activities, which is precisely where DHS can help us strengthen our development efforts.
Thank you for joining USAID in responding to this critical issue, and we look forward to working together in the years to come.