Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing for short) is one of the greatest threats to the sustainability of fishing, marine ecosystems, marine biodiversity, and human food security. Although international bodies and the UN regard illegal fishing as an environmental crime and the European Union has adopted a regulation to combat IUU fishing the problem has not been fully resolved because there are still gaps and loopholes.
Illegal, undocumented and unregulated fishing, also known as pirate fishing, has many facets. In deep-sea fishing, it is understood to mean all types of commercial fishing carried out without the necessary licence, in which the fishing quota authorised under the fishing licence is exceeded, or in which the quantities caught are not, not completely or incorrectly documented. However, it is also considered to be IUU fishing if a fishing vessel fishes in territorial waters of other nations without permission, or if it violates the fishing laws of that country, for example by ignoring fishing times and protected areas. The territorial waters of some West African countries, for example, are among the preferred fishing areas for pirate fishing. In none of these countries is there a strong fisheries control authority, so that the pirate vessels are not in much danger of being caught.
Eurofish Magazine issue 2 2018 features Poland along with Lithuania. This issue also looks at insurance in aquaculture and the fisheries section looks at how IUU fishing is threatening sustainable fishing.
March / April 2018 EM 2
Country profile: Poland, Lithuania
Fisheries: IIUU fishing torpedoes sustainable fisheries management - When licensed fishing and adherence to quotas is penalized
Aquaculture: Insurance – Is it worth it? Coverage of operational risks linked to strict conditions
Events: Preview of the SEG show in Brussels
The Sustainable Eel Group (SEG) is calling for EU action to prevent illegal fishing and trafficking of European eel before it is too late. The European eel is critically endangered; key measures for its protection are limiting of fishing and enforcing existing trade control measures. Within these restrictions it is forbidden to export eel outside the EU. Enforcement agencies estimate, however, that at least 110m juvenile glass eels have already been trafficked from Europe to Asia’s eel farms this season. Trafficking has to stop, because this wildlife trade undermines the measures for the protection of the eel. Andrew Kerr, Chairman of SEG stated: “The failure to control the selling and distribution of European Eel is threatening the whole recovery effort – for every eel legally eaten, 3 to 5 are being trafficked”.
Evidence shows that the trade ban adopted by the EU in 2010, is not being sufficiently implemented by EU Member States. The French Le Comité national des pêches maritimes et des élevages marins recently stated that France’s declared catch alone had reached 140 million glass eels and has another month to run. An instant market survey this week revealed that only some 30 million had been sold to legitimate European markets. The rest had vanished. SEG is calling on the European Commission to enforce existing measures restricting trade of the eel under CITES and the Commission Regulation (EU) no 1320/2014, banning all imports and exports of European eel to and from the EU. Additionally, full traceability of all eel trade is obliged by EU Eel Regulation and in particular its Article 12 on control and enforcement of trade. Insufficient implementation of trade controls and the resulting trafficking frustrates the European Eel Recovery Programme as mandated by the EU Eel Regulation. Consequently, trafficking threatens the survival of the species, by undermining its protection and sustainable use and ultimately some 10,000 jobs.
Satellite imagery and big data infrastructure offer a more cost-effective way to tighten enforcement against IUU fishing, according to a report released by the UK-based charity, Overseas Development Institute (ODI). There are however problems that hinder efficiency.
Private monitoring initiatives like Global Fishing Watch and FishSpektrum are undermined by limited size and insufficient quality of their datasets, the report finds. One problem is tracking vessel location. Large vessels can be monitored as they are legally required to be fitted with communication equipment known as vessel monitoring systems (VMS) or automatic identification systems (AIS), however smaller fishing boats do not need these to be installed or the systems are simply switched off to avoid surveillance. One of the biggest problems is the absence of a unique global database of fishing vessels. Vessel records are dispersed across national ship registries, licencing bodies, national radio bodies, regional fisheries management organisations, and international organisations. The confusion multiplies as vessels change owners and operators, are reflagged, and are registered with new authorities. Identifying individual ships and their owners is therefore a significant challenge. As a result, most of the private initiatives have developed their own vessel databases to pool and correlate static data from varying sources. These range in size from around 75,000 vessels to over 779,00, but a far cry from FAO estimates of 4.6 million fishing vessels in 2016. Better data management and closer collaboration between the different initiatives to gather, standardise, and analyse this data will contribute to making initiatives against illegal fishing more effective. The report calls in fact for a single unified database, if the fight against IUU fishing is not to be an uphill battle.