Fishing problems: Pirate fishing | WWF

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU) fishing is a serious global problem that contributes to overfishing, creates unfair competition, and impedes sustainable fisheries.

As a result of this, improved monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) has been an important preoccupation of fisheries poilcy makers for decades. Also fish retailers are concerned about where their seafood comes from, spurring demand from informed consumers.

Because today´s fishing practices occur far from the eyes of consumers and regulators, we need to move towards transparent and traceable fishing practices. Leading importing fish countries such as the EU and the US are already seeking to close their borders to illegally caught fish,

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What is IUU fishing?

Illegal fishing: conducted by vessels or countries that are part of a fisheries organization but violate the rules, or operate in waters without permission

Unreported catches
: caught by vessels without reporting to relevant authorities

Unregulated fishing:
conducted by vessels under the flag of a country they are not part of, or not part of a fishery organization

Often a professionally organized criminal activity

IUU fishing respects neither national boundaries nor international attempts to manage fishing on the high seas.

It puts incredible pressure on fish stocks and significantly distorts global markets. 

Worth between US$10 -23.5 billion per year, it also presents a major loss of income to coastal countries and coummunities. This is especially the case for some of the world's poorest countries, which depend on fishing for food, livelihoods and revenues.

The poachers are also killing tens of thousands of marine animals as bycatch and destroying delicate habitats through their unregulated use of damaging, and sometimes illegal, fishing practices.

Flags of convenience

The biggest problem for fisheries management and the fight against IUU fishing are so-called flags of convenience (FoC).

Under existing laws governing the high seas, the law of the flag state - the country in which a vessel is registered - applies. So if a country either hasn't signed up to fishing agreements or doesn't enforce them, then vessels flagged to that country are able to plunder the high seas, and even other nations' waters, at will.

One industry source estimates that 1,300 fishing vessels of significant size are flying flags of convenience.
© Australian Fisheries Management Authority
The Uruguayan-flagged Viarsa 1, suspected of fishing illegally for Patagonian toothfish in Australian Antarctic waters.
© Australian Fisheries Management Authority

IUU fishing occurs in nearly all fisheries, and can account for a large proportion of the total catch.

The ventures use various strategies to evade apprehension and avoid laws and agreements to protect fish populations and other marine resources. The pirates disguise the origin of their illegal catch so well that it is often sold legitimately into consumer markets - mainly in Japan, the EU, the US, and other developed countries.

How you can help

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