What is IUU Fishing

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major, complex and long-standing problem affecting the fisheries sector.

Google Earth image featuring illegal fishing in European waters

As defined in the IPOA IUU*, ‘IUU Fishing’ refers to activities that contravene domestic or international law, and/or undermine the conservation and management measures of Regional Fishery Management Organisations (RFMOs).

IUU fishing behaviours include activities referred to as serious violations in the Fish Stocks Agreement, such as fishing without a valid licence, misreporting catch data, falsifying or concealing the vessel’s identity or itinerary, or obstructing the work of inspectors or enforcers. European legislation establishes a presumption of IUU fishing in respect of those and other activities, such as engaging in unauthorised transhipments, or participating in fishing or fisheries support operations with vessels in an IUU blacklist.

IUU fishing can affect the food and work security of vulnerable human populations, and has deleterious consequences for economic development, as well as a devastating effect on ocean wildlife. Being frequently covert in nature, IUU fishing activities undermine governance and derail initiatives to manage fisheries sustainably, directly affecting law-abiding operators that compete for the same stock whilst bearing greater regulatory cost.

As of 2016, the European Commission estimates annual costs attributable to IUU fishing to be in region of Eur. 8 to 19 Bn, equivalent to approximately 15% of global captures.


* IPOA IUU: 2001 International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing: http://www.fao.org/docrep/003/y1224e/y1224e00.htm

Directorate General for Maritime Affairs & Fisheries of the European Commission: http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/illegal_fishing/index_en.htm

1995 Fish Stocks Agreement: