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Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities occur in virtually all capture fisheries, whether they are conducted within areas under national jurisdiction or the high seas. IUU fishing activities pose a direct and significant threat to effective conservation and management of many fish stocks, causing multiple adverse consequences for fisheries and for the people who depend on them in the pursuit of their legitimate livelihoods.

By frustrating fishery management objectives, IUU fishing activities can lead to the collapse of a fishery or seriously impair efforts to rebuild depleted fish stocks. This, in turn may result in lost economic and social opportunities, both short-term and long-term, and may diminish food security. Left unchecked, IUU fishing activities can completely negate the benefits of effective fisheries management.

It is only in recent years that the international community consolidated attention around the term "IUU Fishing Activities". Prior to that, a number of international fisheries instruments were adopted that provided a framework upon which agreement could be reached on the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate IUU Fishing (IPOA - IUU). These instruments, described below, have increasingly been implemented through regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) for two principal and interdependent reasons:

This has allowed RFMOs to take a number of measures that result in implementing the international fisheries instruments in respect of IUU fishing. In a recent FAO Circular that compiled input from the secretariats of RFMOs identifying their priority issues, IUU fishing was among the issues cited as important by the highest aggregation[1] of organizations. The related issue of fleet capacity has also been part of the agenda of many RFMOs in recent years.

This document describes the international instruments, referring to the strengthened role of RFMOs, activities of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), and the relationship to and potential effects of implementation of the IPOA - IUU and relevant instruments on fisheries management in the Mediterranean.

[1] Swan, J. Summary information on the role of international fishery organizations or arrangements and other bodies concerned with the conservation and management of living aquatic resources. FAO Fisheries Circular. No. 985. Rome, FAO. 2003. 114p.

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