Fighting illegal fishing | WWF

Fighting illegal fishing

It is estimated that 33% of the world’s fisheries are overfished while 60% are fished to their maximum capacity. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a leading cause of this state of overfishing in our ocean. Through international commitments such as Sustainable Development Goal 14, political momentum to address the health and sustainable use of our ocean has been building. However, tangible actions to address the long-lasting and even permanent damages from IUU fishing remain inadequate.
 
The European Union is the largest seafood market in the world, importing more than 60% of its seafood. Due to its very nature, IUU fishing is invisible to regulations and policies in place to protect marine life from harmful fishing methods and from being overfished. This also means that IUU fishing is unaccounted for when governments evaluate the fishing industry’s impact on the ocean and when planning the allowable quantity of fish to be caught in future years. 

 
IUU fishing practices have dire consequences for multiple stakeholders in achieving a sustainable blue economy, including vulnerable coastal communities in less developed countries that rely on the ocean for their livelihoods, as well as for large and small-scale fishers that abide by the rules but lose out when there are no fish left. The biggest impact the EU can have to eliminate IUU fishing is to have a zero tolerance view on the import and sale of illegal seafood products in its market. 

The WWF EPO works to maximise the impact of the EU’s IUU Regulation, which aims to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing. To date, the EU's IUU Regulation has instigated some key improvements in the global fight against illegal fishing, but significant gaps remain to successfully implement the requirements that block the import and sale of illegally-sourced seafood products in the European market. The EPO aims to ensure that EU Member States are applying effective controls on the seafood they import to guarantee their legality, thereby demanding fully traceable and transparent seafood supply chains. 

The EPO also holds the European Commission accountable to its position as an international leader to set the example for sustainable fishing practices worldwide. We provide evidence-based recommendations and strategic vision to help the EU achieve this position, and build relationships with external stakeholders to leverage the EU’s influence to improve international fisheries governance.

As part of the EU IUU Watch Coalition, WWF EPO broadens its work to combat illegal fishing and improve transparency in the fisheries sector by ensuring the effective and harmonized implementation of the EU IUU Regulation and by encouraging the EU to effectively support global policy changes via its influence as a major flag and market State.


The EPO’s work to combat IUU fishing is made possible thanks to the project financing of Oceans5 and NORAD.