Illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing is a major contributor to global overfishing, threatening food security, maritime livelihoods, and fisheries sustainability. An emerging narrative in the literature posits that IUU fishing is associated with additional organized criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, slavery, and arms smuggling. We explored this narrative through a systematic literature review to identify the empirical evidence of the association between illegal fisheries activities and organized crimes. Here we show that there is minimal evidence of organized crimes being linked to IUU fishing. Due to the covert nature of both organized crime and IUU fishing, we supplemented the literature review with analysis of media reports on illegal fishing from 2015 to 2019. We reviewed more than 330 individual media reports from 21 countries. From this database, < 2% reported crimes associated with illegal fishing. The predominantly associated crime mentioned were violations of worker's rights, forced labor and/or modern slavery. We resolve the contradiction between the common narrative that fisheries and other crimes are linked by presenting three distinct business models for maritime criminal activities. These models explain why certain crimes such as forced labor are associated with illegal fishing, while other crimes such as trafficking or smuggling are less likely to be linked to fishing activities. By disentangling these crimes from one another we can better focus on solutions to reduce illegal behavior on the sea, protect those vulnerable to fisheries exploitation, and enhance livelihoods and social well-being.
Fisheries Crime and IUU Fishing
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing is widespread; it is therefore likely that illicit trade in marine fish catch is also common worldwide. We combine ecological-economic databases to estimate the magnitude of illicit trade in marine fish catch and its impacts on people. Globally, between 8 and 14 million metric tons of unreported catches are potentially traded illicitly yearly, suggesting gross revenues of US$9 to US$17 billion associated with these catches. Estimated loss in annual economic impact due to the diversion of fish from the legitimate trade system is US$26 to US$50 billion, while losses to countries’ tax revenues are between US$2 and US$4 billion. Country-by-country estimates of these losses are provided in the Supplementary Materials. We find substantial likely economic effects of illicit trade in marine fish catch, suggesting that bold policies and actions by both public and private actors are needed to curb this illicit trade.
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.
Somali waters have high fisheries production potential, but the sustainability of those fisheries is compromised by the presence of foreign fishing vessels, many of them fishing illegally. The Somali domestic fishing sector is small and relatively nascent, but foreign vessels have fished in Somali waters for at least seven decades. Some foreign vessels and their crew have been a direct, physical threat to Somali artisanal fishers. Many foreign vessels directly compete for fish, reducing fish populations and destroying marine habitat through bottom trawling. In this paper, we reconstruct foreign catch in Somali waters from 1981–2014 and classify the health of seventeen commercial fish stocks. Foreign fishing has increased more than twenty-fold since 1981, and the most rapid increase occurred during the 1990s after the collapse of the Federal government and ensuing civil war. We estimate foreign fishing vessels caught 92,500 mt of fish in 2014, almost twice that caught by the Somali domestic fleet. Iran (48%) and Yemen (31%) accounted for the vast majority of foreign fish catch in the most recent year of analysis. Although responsible for only 6% of total foreign catch, trawl vessels disproportionately impact public perception of foreign fishing. We find they trawled over 120,000 km2 of marine seabed in nearshore waters during 2010–2014. Foreign IUU fishing in Somali waters is fueling public anger and perpetuating conflict in five ways: by directly competing with the domestic fishery; through links to piracy; through nearshore illegal and destructive bottom trawling; by contributing to regional political conflict over vessel licensing; and by reducing long-term livelihood security. Significant levels of foreign fishing combined with inconsistent governance means Somalis are not fully benefiting from the exploitation of their marine resources at a local or national level, leading to insecurity at both scales.
Elasmobranchs, extremely charismatic and threatened animals, still are an important economic source for fishers in many parts of the world, providing significant income through trade. Even though Greek seas host at least 67 elasmobranch species, our knowledge about their biology and ecology is to a large extent unknown. In the present study the integration of conventional (legislation, official data from fisheries landings and fish market value and import/export data) and unconventional (social media) sources of data, accompanied with the use of genetics, aim at outlining the elasmobranch fisheries and trade in Greece and identifying “weak spots” that sabotage their conservation. Results revealed that: (a) about 60% of the 68 specimens collected in fish markets were mislabelled, with that being very common for Prionace glauca and Mustelus spp., (b) Illegal fishing is a reality, c) Greece represents one of the top-three European Union southern countries in terms of elasmobranch market size, (d) Aegean Sea and especially its Northern part (Thermaikos Gulf and Thracian Sea) contributed to more than half of the M. mustelus Greek fisheries landings and (e) wholesale prices of elasmobranchs have remained stable during the last decade. Mislabelling and illegal trade of elasmobranchs are common ground in Greece. This context stems from incoherent and complex fisheries legislative framework due to institutional decoupling, discrepancies in the collection and analysis of fisheries-related data, thus substantially reducing the efficiency of the fisheries management in Greek seas.
Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing has been identified by the UN as one of the seven major threats to global maritime security; it causes loss of economic revenue, severe environmental damage, and far-reaching livelihood implications for coastal communities. Indonesia, by far the biggest archipelagic state, faces enormous challenges in all aspects of IUU fishing and addressing those is one of the current Indonesian Government's top priorities. This article addresses the under-researched dimension of how IUU fishing affects fishing communities. With the use of collage making focus groups with fishermen from different Indonesian fishing communities, the research highlights the interrelated environmental (depletion of resources), socio-economic (unbridled illegal activities at sea), cultural (favouritism) and political (weak marine governance) dimensions of IUU fishing as experienced at the local level. However, the research also indicates a strong will by fishermen to be seen as knowledge agents who can help solve the problem by better dissemination of information and cooperation between the local government(s) and the fishing communities. The article concludes by arguing for the involvement of local fishing communities in national and international policy making that addresses IUU fishing.
The significance of the ocean and the resources that lie beneath it is well represented in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, Goal 14 of the SDGs highlights the need to conserve the ocean, seas and marine resources and, as such, is a significant contributor to the achievement of other SDGs. Goals 1 and 2 are aimed at bringing an end to poverty and hunger of which a plentiful supply of fish is an important means to their realisation. Fisheriesalso make a substantial contribution to the revenue of many developing countries, thereby assisting the attainment of Goal 8 which seeks to ensure sustainable economic growth. However, the pervasiveness of unsustainable practices that are harmful to the marine environment, such as pollution, overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, threatens the ability of developing countries especially those in the Gulf of Guinea to maximise the use of their ocean resources. The paper focuses on the Gulf of Guinea due to the significance of fisheries resources to littoral communities and the severity of IUU fishing across the region. The paper also emphasises the threat to the fulfilment of some SDGs by 2030. It does so by arguing that unabated IUU fishing is due to respective government’s lack of awareness of their maritime domain, reflected in the dearth of human resource and inadequate financial investment to solve the problems of maritime security, and the lack of cooperation between countries in the region thus rendering existing surveillance operations ineffective.
Over the last 35 years, at both European and Italian level, great efforts have been made to increase the number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), as they are considered an effective tool for protecting oceans and biodiversity. In recent years, MPAs have become more than simply a tool to improve marine conservation. In fact, their management agencies are actively involved in the sustainable development of nearby communities through the promotion of recreational activities (boating, snorkelling, diving). Even if the recreational uses of the marine environment are generally considered benign, they can potentially be highly detrimental for species and their habitats. As a result, these activities should be controlled through the spatial zoning and the regulations of the MPAs. Thus, the achievement of the conservation goals of the MPAs depends primarily on compliance with the regulations of recreational uses inside their boundaries. The objective of this study was to estimate boating usage and the level of compliance inside the Capo Gallo and Isola delle Femmine (Italy) MPA. The spatial and temporal trend of boating and the behaviours of boaters were measured through direct observation over a period of two summer months. The study highlighted a weakness in the effectiveness of this MPA, linked to a social component and compliance with the regulation. Solutions for effective management plans are outlined thanks to an understanding of the limitations and potential of existing MPA policies.
Indo-Pacific coral reefs face an unprecedented level of anthropogenic pressure. Cyanide fishing is a highly destructive method employed to capture live fish from Indo-Pacific coral reefs and supply the live fish food trade in Asia and the global marine aquarium trade. To allow the development and implementation of an effective and reliable testing platform to screen live reef fish for cyanide poisoning, without their sacrifice, and thus contribute to the ban of this practice from Indo-Pacific coral reefs, the following research topics must be urgently addressed: 1) selection of a suitable model species; 2) standardization of experimental methodologies; 3) exclude the possibility that the target compound(s) being monitored to detect live reef fish illegally collected using cyanide originate from other sources than cyanide poisoning; 4) clarification of the excretion physiology and cyanide pharmacokinetics in marine fish; and 5) evaluate interspecific differences in excretion physiology and cyanide pharmacokinetics in marine fish.
Natural resource rules exist to control resources and the people that interact with them. These rules often fail because people do not comply with them. Decisions to comply with natural resource rules often are based on attitudes about legitimacy of rules and the perceived risks of breaking rules. Trust in agencies promulgating rules in part may determine perceptions of legitimacy of the rule, and in turn depends on individuals’ trust in different agency actors. The purpose of this research is to explore the relationship between fishing rule noncompliance and trust in scientists, a key group within management agencies. We interviewed 41 individuals in one rural fishing community in the Brazilian Pantanal from April to August, 2016, to assess (1) noncompliance rates, (2) noncompliance-related attitudes, and (3) the relationship between trust in scientists and noncompliance decisions in the region. We found that among study participants, noncompliance was common and overt. Trust in scientists performing research in the region was the best predictor of noncompliance rate with a fishing rule (nonparametric rank correlation ρ = -0.717; Probit model pseudo-R2 = 0.241). Baseline data from this research may help inform future interventions to minimize IUU fishing and protect the Pantanal fishery. Although our results are specific to one community in the Pantanal, trust in scientists is potentially an important factor for compliance decisions in similar situations around the world. These results build not only on compliance theory but also speak to the important role that many scientists play in rural areas where they conduct their research.