Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing – A Global Problem

It is estimated that IUU practises amount to more than €10 billion every year representing 19% of the reported value of catches globally. IUU fishing has both disastrous environmental and socio-economic impacts. Developing countries pay a particularly high price to this scourge due to a lack of resources to effectively control its waters. Many of its coastal communities are also solely dependent on fisheries for their livelihood. IUU fishing also constitutes one of the most serious threats to the sustainable exploitation of living aquatic resources and marine biodiversity and damages the marine environment by overfishing and irresponsible fishing practices and techniques.

The depletion of fish stocks and future stock growth reduces the size and quality of catches which in turn contributes to lower profitability and eventually job losses, affecting not only the fishing and processing sector but also related industries. IUU fishing also contributes to unfair competition between those fishermen and operators abiding by the rules, and those who do not.

IUU Fishing and the European Community

The European Community is a valuable target for IUU operators since it is the largest importer of fishery products in the world and one of the main producers and exporters worldwide. It also has many trading partners on all continents on both import and export side. In 2007, the Community imported nearly €16 billion of fisheries products. Imports derived from IUU catches have been conservatively estimated at €1.1 billion in 2005. Processed products account for roughly half of total Community imports of fishery products. The high demand for high-value and/or processed products exposes the Community to a potentially attractive market for IUU operators as, due to the lack of control mechanisms based on traceability and identification of the fishing vessels, IUU catches can be easily laundered, including through processing.

As a response to IUU fishing practices, the EU introduced new regulations to deter, prevent and eliminate IUU fishing. This legislation came into effect on 1 January 2010 and creates new requirements on fish and fishery products entering the EU market from third countries; and for fishery products leaving the EU and entering into the markets of third countries.

Legal Framework

Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

* Regulation 1005/2008 regulates the importation of fish products both processed and unprocessed to the EU either by EU flagged vessels or third country vessels (non-EU Member State).

* It also aims to regulate fishing activities of EU vessels exporting fish products outside the EU.

* As prescribed by Regulation 1005/2008, it is essential that EU Member States, third countries and the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMO's) cooperate

mutually so compliance with the different rules can be implemented as much as possible in all countries with fishing activities.

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1010/2009 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing

* Regulation 1010/2009 sets out detailed rules for implementing Council Regulation No. 1005/2008 establishing a European Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

* These rules cover in particular inspections of third country vessels in Member States ports, the catch certification scheme for importation and exportation of fishery products and sightings.

Scope of IUU Regulation

IUU Regulation applies to all trade of marine fishery products, processed or not, originating from third country fishing vessel and exported to the Community by any means of transport, and to catches originating from Community fishing vessels to be exported to third countries.

The definition of the marine fishery products concerned is found in Article 2(8) of the IUU Regulation with a reference to a universal recognised criterion. Only products falling within Chapter 03 and Tariff headings 1604 and 1605 of the Community Combined Nomenclature are covered by the Catch Certification Scheme.

Some products are however excluded from the scope of the IUU Regulation and its catch certification scheme, such as aquaculture products obtained from fry or larvae, freshwater fish, ornamental fish, mussels, oysters, scallops, snails and other products of minor importance. A detailed list of excluded products can be found in Annex I of the IUU Regulation.

Link to Excluded Products

Products containing or obtained from fishery products which are not classified in Chapter 03 or in headings 1604 and 1605 of the Combined Nomenclature are also excluded from the scope of the IUU Regulation and its catch certification scheme.

Catch Certification Scheme

The catch certification scheme is an essential part of the IUU Regulation which is intended to improve the traceability of all marine fishery products imported into the European Community and ensure compliance with conservation and management rules, in cooperation with third countries. The IUU Regulation provides that the trade with the Community of fishery products obtained from IUU fishing will be prohibited. To ensure the effectiveness of this prohibition, fishery products shall only be imported into the Community when accompanied by a catch certificate.

Through this instrument, the competent authorities of the flag State of the catching vessel will certify that the catches concerned have been made in accordance with applicable laws, regulations and international conservation and management measures. This certificate is validated by the competent authority of the flag State.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing encompasses unauthorised fishing and all fishing activities that are a serious breach of national, regional or international rules and global fisheries conservation measures. You can report suspected illegal fishing activity to the SFPA in confidence.