Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and Associated Drivers

Last modified: 
February 25, 2020 - 3:32pm
Type: Report
Year of publication: 2019
Authors: Sjarief Widjaja, Tony Long, Hassan Wirajuda
Publishing institution: World Resources Institute

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing accounts for 20 percent of the world catch and up to 50 percent in some areas. This industry often uses bonded labour, destructive fishing practices and deceptive practices to reap profits at the expense of local fisheries, coastal states and the marine environment. Although international resolutions and reports have been issued for decades, countries have failed to enact and enforce regulations to stop these practices due to a lack of political will, resources and capacity.

At the beginning of a new decade, with deadlines approaching for the Sustainable Development Goals, nations have a major opportunity to form the partnerships and enforcement mechanisms to stop illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices.

Advancing, and more affordable, technologies also present new opportunities to implement and enforce new and old agreements and regulations. These technologies can track not only the location and documentation of fishing vessels but also the progress of a particular fish catch through the value chain to ensure legality.

By exploring the underlying drivers of IUU fishing— economic incentives, weak governance, and poor enforcement—we propose effective actions that can be taken in the current international framework to address the issue. The best use of appropriate technologies, combined with good policy and international cooperation, partnerships and collaboration can be cost- effective and scaled globally to transform fisheries. Fish harvested legally and sustainably can provide animal protein for generations to come.

UN Sustainable Development Goal 14.4 commits countries, by 2020, to effectively regulate fishing; end overfishing, IUU fishing, and destructive fishing practices; and implement science-based management plans to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics. The world is clearly not yet on track to achieve those goals.

In this paper, we outline the state of knowledge and trends in IUU fishing, ways in which it contributes to overfishing, how it exacerbates the impacts of climate change, and specific aspects of how it operates in coastal areas, on the high seas and in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Successful country strategies are highlighted, that, if more widely adopted, will help transition the IUU fishing fleet to one of compliance.

As one of a series of Blue Papers prepared as an input to the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, this paper provides scientific and policy background
as well as opportunities for action to reinvigorate international cooperation and efforts to effectively regulate IUU fishing.

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