General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

Best practices in the fight against IUU fishing

Curbing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is crucial for sustainable fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

IUU Best Practices

In 2019, the GFCM celebrated the International Day for the Fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing with an award ceremony promoting best practices in fighting against IUU fishing across the region.

Among initiatives received from all over the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, the following seven best practices were selected as examples of virtuous initiatives and innovation to be adapted and replicated in the region.


In Morocco, every small-scale fishing vessel has a permit, which serves to identify it, and which must always be kept on board. Now these vessels are each being fitted with a radio frequency identification device (RFID) containing information about the owner, registration and fishing license information: this can be read by an inspector via a hand-held device.

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Croatia is modernizing its national monitoring, control and surveillance system through the introduction of new fishery inspection technologies. The project aims to improve both efficiency and coverage, detecting and preventing IUU activities while protecting legal fisheries regime from illegal competition.

The same technologies are being used to develop a traceability system in which it is hoped will be launched in 2020. Barcode markings will allow consumers to track the fish they're purchasing right back to the vessel which caught it, also providing information on where and when the catch was made, and the gear used.

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This project targets mislabeled fish in supply chains by means of a science-based catch certification scheme. The use of DNA analysis in identification fish and fish products in supply chain audits will answer three key questions:

  • What species is it?
  • Where was it caught?
  • Is it wild or farmed?

By answering these questions and thus providing traceability, the system exposes fish that have been illegally integrated into supply chains. It can also be used to confirm the provenance of products labelled as sustainable, while highlighting the presence of over-exploited species in various markets.

This project has been piloted in small-scale fisheries in Egypt, focusing on a fish species commonly caught in northern and inland lakes.

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The GFCM Strait of Sicily Pilot Project (Pilot Project) implemented by EFCA puts commitments made under the MedFish4Ever declaration into action: specifically, it focuses on implementing monitoring control and surveillance systems into high seas areas subject to IUU fishing. In this instance it features as a part of a GFCM multi-annual management plan for European hake and deep-water rose shrimp fisheries in the Strait of Sicily.

The Pilot Project establishes an observation and inspection programme to detect and act against instances of suspected IUU fishing, which comprised a number of important elements:

  • High seas inspections
  • Effective investigation procedures for alleged violations
  • Provisions for appropriate action in response to violations
  • Port inspections
  • Monitoring of catches and landings including statistical analysis
  • Specific monitoring programmes including boarding and inspection
  • Observer programmes

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A lot of attention is paid to IUU enforcement regimes - monitoring technology, fisheries inspectors, citizen surveillance, DNA testing and so on. This project targets IUU fishing activities from a completely different direction: it aims to prevent vessels engaged in IUU fishing from being able to gain access to insurance. If a vessel isn't insured, there's little to no chance that it will be able to operate profitably.

Facilitated by Oceana and the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment), the project was launched in 2017 with an industry-wide statement against IUU fishing signed by leading players in the global insurance industry including Allianz, AXA and Generali - to date it has gained more than 30 insurance bodies around the world. In February this year the signatories' commitments were reinforced with the launch of the first ever set of guidelines to assist insurers in avoiding contracts associated with IUU fishing.

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This project - part of the Interreg Med FishMPABlue2 framework - focuses on IUU fishing in marine protected areas (MPAs). It investigates:

  • How much IUU fishing is taking place;
  • How poaching and its drivers are perceived by legitimate stakeholders;
  • How stakeholders can be encourage to participate in voluntary surveillance

The initiative has been so far applied in 11 pilot MPAs across six countries: Telascica (Croatia), Bonifacio (France), Zakynthos (Greece), Egadi Islands, Portofino, Torre Guaceto (Italy), Strunjan (Slovenia), Cabo de Palos, Freus d'Evissa I Formentera (Spain). The relevance of its findings, though, is not limited to the locations studied: it will help to form strategies to combat IUU fishing across the whole Mediterranean region.

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The Club Bleu Artisanal label is a simple, cost-effective traceability system, designed for use by small-scale fishers in Tunisia. It uses web-based technology to certify the legal origin of small-scale catches, recording where and when they're made, and by whom.

This information helps the fishers access local markets, while people can use an Android application to ensure the quality and origin of the fish they're buying. The fishers are supported in their operations by an office at the port. The Club Bleu team also plays a role in raising consumer awareness of the importance of traceability and sustainability - and of avoiding IUU fishing.

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