North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission


Frequently Asked Questions

What is…
…an anadromous fish?
spawning salmon jumping upstream

Anadromous fish migrate from where they hatch in fresh water to the ocean where they spend most of their lives and grow to maturity before returning to fresh water to spawn. In the case of NPAFC’s responsibilities, anadromous fish include the six species of Pacific salmon (pink, chum, sockeye, Chinook, coho, and cherry) and steelhead trout (see more on anadromous fish).

…the high seas?
high seas indicated by dark blue areas

The high seas are the international waters of the world’s oceans located outside the exclusive economic zones (200-mile EEZs) of coastal States.

…IUU fishing?
US Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Sara Mooers

Illegal fishing is now often referred to as illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. IUU fishing can occur anywhere in the world. Illegal fishing can mean fishing out of season, harvesting prohibited species, fishing by prohibited gear, catching more than the allowed quota, and fishing without a license. Unreported fishing generally means fishing activity that goes unreported or misreported to national authorities or to the responsible regional fisheries management organization (RFMO). Unregulated fishing refers to fishing conducted by vessels that are stateless, using a flag of convenience, or illegal fishing conducted by a flag State not party to the responsible regional fisheries management organization. Unregulated fishing also occurs when fishing is conducted in areas where there are no conservation or management measures in place. The most common illegal fishing activity in the NPAFC Convention Area is large-scale driftnet fishing, which can deplete marine stocks of target and non-target species.

…pirate fishing?
Coast Guard detains vessel in North Pacific Ocean. Photo credit: PO1 William Colclough, US Coast Guard

Pirate fishing is a vessel conducting illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Typically pirate vessels operate under flags of convenience or can be stateless. The majority of IUU cases involve fish caught in international waters in violation of national or international rules.

…a flag State?

The flag State of a fishing vessel is the State under whose laws the vessel is registered or licensed. The flag State has the authority and responsibility to enforce regulations over vessels registered under its flag.

…large-scale driftnet fishing?
Coast Guard crew members uncover an approximately 5.6-mile drift net onboard the fishing vessel Run Da in the North Pacific Ocean, 860 miles east of Hokkaido, Japan, June 16, 2018. Photo credit: PO1 William Colclough, US Coast Guard

A driftnet is a net suspended vertically (approximately 2–3 m) in the water between a float line at the top and a lead line at the bottom. In the sea, it drifts and moves with water currents and the wind and catches fish by entangling them in the mesh of the net.

What distinguishes a large-scale driftnet from other types of vertical nets is its much greater length. Before the UN ban on driftnets, some fisheries set multiple panels of driftnet totaling as much as 50 km in length per night. There was a major outcry against the many large-scale driftnet fishing vessels in the South Pacific, with claims they threatened the ecosystems and the economies of coastal States. This led to a ban in the Wellington Convention (1989) of driftnets over 2.5 km in length. One month later, the UN called upon its members to reduce the fishing effort of large-scale driftnets and requested FAO to study its impacts. By the end of 1992, a global moratorium on all large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing was declared.

…the UN driftnet ban?
driftnet fishing causes incidental bycatch; sea turtle entangled in a net. Photo credit: Doug Helton , NOAA/NOS/ORR/ERD

On December 20, 1991, the United Nations General Assembly called upon members of the international community to implement a global moratorium on all large-scale pelagic driftnet fishing. The moratorium was fully implemented on the high seas of the world’s oceans and seas on December 31, 1992 (

…FAO Port State Measures?
illegal salmon products confiscated by Korean authority under its domestic legislation (Port State Inspection) in 2010

Recognition by FAO that PSM could be used to protect fish stocks from illegal fishing led to the 2009 FAO Port State Measures (PSM) Agreement ( The PSM Agreement defines the port State requirements that a foreign fishing vessel must comply with as a condition for use of ports within the port State. The Agreement requires the port State to designate and to publicize which ports are available for inspection of vessels and calls for prior notification by vessels of their port of entry, vessel type, and the catch on board. The PSM Agreement restricts ports of entry, landing and transshipment of fish, and provision of supplies and services. The agreement further requires appropriate vessel and product documentation, trade-related measures and sanctions. Currently, several regional fisheries management organizations (RFMO) have adopted these measures into development of their own agreements to help eliminate illegal fishing within their respective convention areas.

…the NPAFC Committee on Enforcement?

The Committee on Enforcement (ENFO) is a standing committee of the NPAFC (others are Committee on Finance and Administration and Committee on Scientific Research and Statistics). The ENFO comprises a spokesperson and advisors from each member country. The committee meets regularly to plan and coordinate each country’s NPAFC-related enforcement activities in the Convention Area, and it exchanges operational information regarding the status of patrols and possible violations of the provisions of the Convention. Enforcement activities include surface and air patrols and at-sea and port inspections.

…NPAFC Conservation Measures?

The Convention specifies NPAFC Conservation Measures for fishing activities in the Convention Area.
• Prohibit directed fishing for anadromous fish (with the exception of scientifically reviewed and approved research fishing)
• Reduce to the maximum extent possible the incidental taking of anadromous fish
• Prohibit retention of anadromous fish on board a fishing vessel that has taken anadromous fish incidentally while fishing for other species
Furthermore, the Convention provides that member countries take appropriate measures in accordance with international law and their respective domestic laws to prevent illegal trafficking in anadromous fish and to penalize those involved in this trafficking.

…an RFMO?

An RFMO is a regional fisheries management organization. These are inter-governmental organizations established by international agreements that focus on managing and conserving fish stocks in a particular geographic region. The North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission is an RFMO with a Convention Area in the international waters of the North Pacific.

…the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea?

The full name of this convention is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 ( The Convention came into effect on November 16, 1994, and it created rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources. The Convention established the sovereign rights of coastal States to a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and that all States have the freedom of fishing on the high seas with limitations, including the duty to cooperate in measures to manage and conserve living resources.

…the UN Fish Stocks Agreement?

The United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (UNFSA) took effect in 2001 and is formally known as the United Nations Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of December 10, 1982 Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks ( The agreement addresses the obligation of States to control the fishing activities of their vessels in international waters. Conservation and management measures established by relevant regional fisheries management organizations (RFMO) pertain to all States, including those that are not members of the RFMO. The UN Fish Stocks Agreement also says States have the right to monitor and inspect vessels of other States to verify compliance with internationally agreed fishing rules.