Council Regulation 1005 / 2008 (the IUU Regulation) is a European Union (EU) legislative tool designed to reinforce and support pre-existing normative measures established by the international community to control illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The potential of the IUU regulation to disincentivise IUU fishing practices gravitates around
- the indisputable power of the EU as port and market State, and
- on the ability of the EU to implement the IUU regulation in an even and watertight manner.
These are in fact like two sides of the same coin, since loopholes in implementation leading to IUU importation windows can de facto give rise to different standards within the common trade boundary and make coordination impossible.
A recent report offers an insight into progress made in implementing the Regulation, which came into force on the 1st of January 2010. The report offers a useful overview of the different degrees of investment, reorganisation and resource reallocation in each of the Member States pursuant to the requirements of the IUU Regulation.
According to the authors, the catch certification system imposed by the Regulation has placed a heavy administrative burden on Member States. Implementation has been uneven and differences in approach cannot always be attributed to differences in patterns such as seafood trade volume, financial resilience or pre-existing know-how: Whilst large importers such as Denmark and Spain have developed interactive IU tools, others (including some with considerable importation volumes) have not done so. The same is true of intelligence data gathering processes.
For example, highly sophisticated IUU tracking software and data capture systems in Spain have not been replicated (and are not supported) in other Member States. This unevenness in the implementation of the Regulation leads to inefficiencies, penalises better implementation and causes potential diversions of legitimate trade.
Increased data and know-how sharing can address other weaknesses of the IUU Regulation such as the inability of the imports system to deter the duplication of catch certificates during processing operations in 3rd countries. Increased knowledge and sharing of processing methodologies and conversion data could help address this issue.
As no common IT platform exists with the capability to cross-check import volumes, sources, fishing arts, time of capture and composition, States are rendered powerless to flag suspected IUU imports in a timely fashion.
This problem became manifest earlier this year when the Spanish government decided to suspend the importation of Vietnamese swordfish over IUU concerns. According to Madrid sources, an audit identified a volume of 502 metric tonnes (mt) of swordfish captured in 2012 by Vietnamese vessels (according to catch certificate data) being imported into Spain despite Vietnam having declared to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries total capture volumes of only 372 mt for that time period. Vietnam exports swordfish to other European countries, but the capture declaration shortfall had not been identified in any other Member States.
If this is alarming, the potential discrepancy between the volumes of West & Central Pacific swordfish declared for 2012 and those actually captured is even more so.
A common software audit platform would enable European Fisheries authorities to identify IUU fishing importation trends as well as to ascertain species under-declaration volumes – such IUU trade-flows could then be used as solid, objective data upon which the Commission could identify third countries for potential inclusion in the EU non-cooperating third country list.
Perhaps this could even be integrated with the public EU alert system once it is operational, so that awareness of IUU fishing trade flows and vessel data and activity could be integrated, shared and uniformly acted upon.
 To access the full MRAG report, click here: http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/documentation/studies/iuu-regulation-application/doc/final-report_en.pdf