NGOs call on EU: Lead the fight against illegal fishing in regional management

Published on August 23, 2019

In a recent report NGOs have called on the EU to lead efforts against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in international waters managed by regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs).

By promoting best practice measures the EU can lead efforts to successfully implement the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially target 14.4 to “effectively regulate harvesting, and end overfishing, illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and destructive fishing practices…”

IUU fishing remains one of the biggest threats to the sustainable management of marine resources with up to 20% of wild fish estimated to have been fished illegally. The EU, as a major global player in fisheries markets and management, signatory to the UN SDGs, and member of 16 international RFMOs is in a unique position to drive policy changes and prompt actions by other markets.

The EU IUU Coalition calls on the EU to:

  • Continue leading on promoting transparent fisheries governance at a global level;
  • Build alliances with the contracting parties and cooperating non contracting parties (CPCs) of RFMOs, in intensifying efforts to effectively implement measures for tackling IUU fishing practices; and
  • Establish (when not in place) and enforce RFMO measures that would trigger action against CPCs in cases of non-compliance

These measures can be implemented through policies such as the public disclosure of vessel registries and fishing authorisations, by mandating International Maritime Organisation (IMO) numbers as unique vessel identifiers on all motorised fishing vessels above 12 metres, aligning all RFMOs with leading global standards in Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), employing joint inspection schemes at sea, and by implementing effective port State measures (PSMs), and by monitoring and reporting 100% of transshipment activities or by introducing a complete ban at sea.

Such measures reinforce the EU’s multilateral actions to promote best practices through its membership of RFMOs.

In order to effectively stop vessels and nationals engaged in IUU fishing, the report provides recommendations on deterrent sanctions and the creation of IUU vessel lists. “IUU operators move from one region to another where regulations and the means used to enforce the law are weaker.” Therefore, automatic recognition and cross-listing of IUU vessels is an effective deterrent and makes it possible to target inspections and deny port entry and services, thus preventing IUU fish products from entering the market.

The coalition recommends that implementing transparent procedures can be achieved through strengthening the decision-making process with a transparent objection procedure, open data policies and stakeholder inclusivity, and through strengthening compliance with conservation and management measures.

Finally, Annex 1 of the report evaluates the performance of four RFMOs on transparency and anti-IUU measures and Annex 2 provides a list of such measures adopted and amended at the last 2018 RFMO commission meetings.



RFMO – regional fisheries management organization

IUU – Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

CPC – Contracting parties and cooperating non contracting parties

IMO – International Maritime Organisation

VMS – Vessel Monitoring Systems

PSM – Port State Measures