Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major global fisheries problem. It has undesirable effects on fish stock survival, the marine environment and on human populations.
IUU fishing results from the failure of States to monitor the fishing activity of their vessels and to enforce laws and regulations. Because of its furtive nature, IUU fishing undermines measures to manage fisheries sustainably, directly affecting law-abiding fisheries actors that compete for the same stock whilst bearing more of the regulatory and financial burden.
A cause of food and work insecurity in vulnerable coastal nations, IUU fishing also distorts competition as fishing operators who avoid compliance with laws and regulations gain competitive advantage. It reduces fishing opportunities for law-abiding operators, putting lawful fisheries at risk.
IUU fishing has been linked to crime at sea, including the trafficking of human beings, protected wildlife, weapons and drugs.
Typical IUU fishing behaviours include fishing without a valid licence, not recording or communicating catch data, fishing in restricted areas, targeting unauthorised species, using banned gear, falsifying or concealing the vessel’s identity or itinerary, obstructing the work of inspectors or enforcers, targeting undersized fish, engaging in unauthorised transhipments, participating in fishing or fisheries support activities with vessels in an IUU black list or operating in breach of the conservation and management measures of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.
The European Commission has judged the situation to be sufficiently serious as to put in place systems whereby States that do not put measures in place to address IUU fishing are identified. The European Union has now formally warned Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo, Vanuatu, Korea, Ghana, Curacao, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea. Upon the Commission’s recommendation, The European Council took the decision earlier this year to ban seafood imports from Guinea, Belize and Cambodia, who are considered by the EU to be condoning IUU fishing.
The furtive nature of IUU fishing means that its true scale is difficult to calculate, though a 2009 study by Agnew D.J. and others suggests annual costs of between US $ 10 and 23.5 Billion. Around one-fifth of global marine captures is thought to be illegal in origin.