Unregulated fishing on the high seas of the Indian Ocean

Posted on November, 02 2020

The world's first assessment of when, where and how fishing with no legal framework and no fisheries management systems is occurring in the Indian Ocean
This breakthrough report from WWF and Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT) shows for the first time exactly when, where and how unregulated fishing is happening in the region, its impacts on threatened species, and how far it is expanding. 

Unlike illegal and unreported fishing, unregulated fishing is conducted where no legal framework exists, and is not bound by any regional fisheries management and enforcement system. 

The Indian Ocean is home to some of the most important fisheries on Earth, accounting for over 14% of global wild-caught fish, but 30% of assessed stocks in the region are already being fished beyond sustainable limits. The report shows that unregulated fishing, which is not factored into the 30% calculation, is increasing in intensity, putting essential sources of revenue for millions of people and wider ecosystem health at risk. 

The report finds that the existing legal frameworks for fisheries in the Indian Ocean suffer from regulatory gaps in both the geographical areas and the species they cover, resulting in unregulated fishing across the region. Squid fishing in one unregulated area grew by 830% in just five years, for example, while species such as shark have no regulatory frameworks for monitoring and protection. 

In 2017, EUR 25.3 billion of cuttlefish and squid was imported into the EU, originating principally from Indian Ocean fisheries. The rapid escalation of unregulated fishing of squid poses a direct threat not only to the squid, but to the oceanic food web in which they play a critical role, including as a food source for tuna. Indian Ocean tuna fisheries supply nearly 20% of global demand, worth over USD 6.5 billion annually. 

Action is required by the Member Countries of the relevant Regional Fisheries Management Organisations to close the regulatory gaps, by China as the flag State of many of the vessels identified fishing in the unregulated areas, as well as by key market States like the EU to ensure that imports of squid and other species do not contribute to the collapse of marine populations vital to oceanic health and seafood supply chains.
Unregulated fishing on the high seas of the Indian Ocean: the impacts on, risks to, and challenges for sustainable fishing and ocean health