General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean - GFCM

Mediterranean and Black Sea countries unite to fight IUU fishing

International Day for the Fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing



  • IUU fishing catches millions of tonnes of fish every year.
  • It is estimated that IUU fishing accounts, on average, for about 20 percent (or 1 in 5) of the world’s total catch.
  • In an unprecedented effort, countries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea are working together to protect the fish stocks and fight against IUU fishing.

With 46 000 km of coastline (more than the periphery of the earth), the Mediterranean Sea is a semi-enclosed sea surrounded by the highest number of countries. To protect the over‑exploited fish stocks in the region, as well as the thousands of coastal livelihoods that depend on its marine resources, countries from all shores are collaborating to curb IUU fishing.

Indeed, IUU fishing creates unfair competition with small-scale fishers that abide by the regulations, threatening the food security and livelihoods of entire coastal communities.

Seventy-five percent of fish stocks are currently overfished in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Nonetheless, according to the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) management strategy evaluation work (a model that forecasts how fish stocks react over time to management measures following the GFCM’s management plans) these fish stocks could recover if IUU fishing is eliminated.

Under the framework of the GFCM, the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) is working with inspectors from Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Libya, Montenegro, Tunisia and Ukraine to ensure that inspections at sea are consistent across the region. 

The role of inspections in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea is critical to ensure compliance with fisheries rules. The GFCM is developing an international joint surveillance and inspection scheme across the Mediterranean and the Black Sea to train national inspectors and enhance the access and exchange of information and data in the region.

EFCA has chartered an offshore patrol vessel, the Lundy Sentinel, that supports the deployment and exchange of inspectors from various countries and thus enhances the compliance, capacity building and exchange of best practices in real operational situations in the field.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the exploration of new methods of control including the use of remote electronic monitoring, reinforcing the electronic logbook (ERS) and the use of new technologies as fishing gear sensors and marking through dedicated pilot actions. Using these new control methods, the number of inspections and sightings reported and transmitted to the GFCM Secretariat has continued to increase.

To complement EFCA’s practical trainings, and in line with the commitments taken in the Malta MedFish4Ever Ministerial Declaration, the GFCM provides trainings on international law and GFCM decisions on monitoring, control and surveillance to continue to build the capacity of inspectors in the fight against IUU fishing. In 2022, a virtual training academy for fisheries inspectors will be open to Mediterranean countries to further support comprehensive and harmonious inspections at sea.

Learn more about ID-IUU.


What is IUU fishing?

  • Illegal fishing refers to any fishing activity which breaks the laws of the fishery where it takes place. The fishery may be under the national jurisdiction of a coastal state, or on the high seas regulated by a regional fisheries management organization (RFMO).
  • Unreported fishing refers to fishing which goes unreported or is misreported to the relevant national authority or RFMO, contravening regulations in place.
  • Unregulated fishing refers to fishing carried out by unregistered vessels, or vessels flying flags of nations which are not part of the RFMO that controls the area where they are fishing. It also occurs in areas which are not regulated at all.

Why is IUU fishing a serious problem?

  • It undermines global, regional and national policies for the sustainability of fisheries, aggravating the status of fishery resources.
  • It causes an estimated loss to the global economy, representing up to 26 million tonnes of fish caught annually, valued at USD 10-23 billion.
  • It accounts for severe environmental damage to key marine ecosystems due to the use of destructive fishing gear and practices.
  • It distorts open and fair competition and is linked to various crimes, from the forging of document to money laundering and tax evasion.
  • It has damaging socioeconomic impacts on coastal communities, disrupting livelihoods, local employment and supply chains and hampering decent work.
  • It affects our knowledge of the status of fisheries stocks due to lack of data on real catches, landings and fishing activities.

How can we improve the fight against IUU?

  • By promoting knowledge on the extent of IUU fishing through regular assessments and by raising awareness on the threats it poses to coastal communities.
  • By fostering cooperation among all relevant organizations with a mandate to tackle IUU fishing.
  • By promoting joint initiatives such as training for port control inspectors and officers as well as inspections schemes for iconic fisheries in the region.
  • By helping to implement all relevant policies, from the ratification of international treaties (such as the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures) to compliance with GFCM recommendations.
  • By providing technical assistance to less-developed countries with a view to building their capacity in the fight against IUU fishing.