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Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing

What is IUU fishing?

©FAO/Matthew Camilleri/FAO

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a broad term that captures a wide variety of fishing activity. IUU fishing is found in all types and dimensions of fisheries; it occurs both on the high seas and in areas within national jurisdiction. It concerns all aspects and stages of the capture and utilisation of fish, and it may sometimes be associated with organized crime. Reference to broad activities classified as illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing are included in the IPOA-IUU as follows:

Illegal fishing: 

  • conducted by national or foreign vessels in waters under the jurisdiction of a State, without the permission of that State, or in contravention of its laws and regulations;
  • conducted by vessels flying the flag of States that are parties to a relevant regional fisheries management organisation but operate in contravention of the conservation and management measures adopted by that organisation and by which the States are bound, or relevant provisions of the applicable international law; or
  • in violation of national laws or international obligations, including those undertaken by cooperating States to a relevant regional fisheries management organization.

Unreported fishing: 

  • which have not been reported, or have been misreported, to the relevant national authority, in contravention of national laws and regulations; or
  • are undertaken in the area of competence of a relevant regional fisheries management organisation which have not been reported or have been misreported, in contravention of the reporting procedures of that organisation.

Unregulated fishing: 

  • in the area of application of a relevant regional fisheries management organization that are conducted by vessels without nationality, or by those flying the flag of a State not party to that organization, or by a fishing entity, in a manner that is not consistent with or contravenes the conservation and management measures of that organization; or
  • in areas or for fish stocks in relation to which there are no applicable conservation or management measures and where such fishing activities are conducted in a manner inconsistent with State responsibilities for the conservation of living marine resources under international law.

IUU fishing undermines national and regional efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks and, as a consequence, inhibits progress towards achieving the goals of long-term sustainability and responsibility. Moreover, IUU fishing greatly disadvantages and discriminates against those fishers that act responsibly, honestly and in accordance with the terms of their fishing authorizations. If IUU fishers target vulnerable stocks that are subject to strict management controls or moratoria, efforts to rebuild those stocks to healthy levels will not be achieved, threatening marine biodiversity, food security for communities who rely on fisheries resources for protein and the livelihoods of those involved in the sector.