Illegal fishing is a major threat to global marine resources. It depletes fish stocks, destroys marine habitats, distorts competition, puts honest fishers at an unfair disadvantage, and destroys the livelihoods of coastal communities, particularly in developing countries.
It is estimated that between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish are caught illegally a year, corresponding to at least 15 % of he world's catches.
As the world’s largest importer of fisheries products, the EU has adopted an innovative policy to fight against illegal fishing worldwide, by not allowing fisheries products to access the EU unless they are certified as legal.
The IUU Regulation entered into force on 1 January 2010. It concerns EU Member States and non-EU countries alike and applies to all vessels that commercially exploit fisheries resources destined for the EU market.
Under the Regulation, the EU enters into a structured process of dialogue and cooperation with the third countries that have problems meeting international IUU rules, with the aim of helping them undertake the necessary reforms (see illustration).
The IUU process explained
The European Commission opens a formal dialogue during a minimum of 6 months.
If the country improves its situation, the 6-month period can be prolonged and ultimately the pre-identification can be removed.
If the country does not address the problems, it will be identified by the European Commission as non-cooperating.
A ban of all products for which the catch certificate is validated after the Decision enters into force.
Continued dialogue can lead to restoring the import of legally caught fisheries products.
LISTING BY THE EU
Fisheries products caught by fishing vessels flying the flag of these countries cannot be imported into the EU while the countries remain listed.
The Decision triggers further measures, including a fishing ban for EU vessels in these countries' waters.
In this context, the EU is currently in dialogue with 50 third countries. Thanks to this cooperation, more than 30 third countries have improved their systems to join the EU in fighting IUU fishing.
The IUU Regulation has also helped to improve EU control standards. It has allowed Member States to better verify and, if appropriate, refuse imports into the EU, for instance by sharing intelligence.
The EU fleet is tightly controlled thanks to a comprehensive legal framework and elaborate control system that applies anywhere and under any flag.
The EU also regularly publishes a list of IUU vessels. More than 200 cases of alleged IUU fishing activities involving vessels from 27 countries have been investigated. As a direct consequence, sanctions against more than 50 vessels have been imposed, amounting to roughly EUR 8 million.
To find out more: http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/illegal_fishing/info/index_en.htm