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.
In October 2017, the European Commission and the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council jointly organised the conference “Beyond 2020: Supporting Europe’s Coastal Communities” in Tallinn, Estonia on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) both now and beyond 2020. The conference, which had more than 70 speakers and attracted some 300 participants has now presented its conclusions from the event. The main findings are that the EMFF, as the EU’s main funding instrument for the fisheries sector, helps to support the CFP objectives by making fishing and aquaculture more sustainable, competitive and innovative, by increasing the availability of data and strengthening control as well as by enhancing the conservation of the environment and natural resources.
By the end of 2016, nearly 6,500 projects had been selected for financing. More than half of them are designed to help SMEs in fisheries and aquaculture become more competitive. More than a third of them are also designed to preserve and protect the marine environment and to promote resource efficiency. Although the EMFF has helped to mobilise more than 1 billion euros of public and private investment, there was common understanding among participants that efforts need to be stepped up to maximise EMFF achievements.
Looking beyond 2020, the conference examined in detail the challenges and opportunities facing the fisheries and maritime sectors. Although the sector has become more sustainable and competitive, e.g. with the fleet generating nearly 800 billion euros in net profit in 2015 alone, there was widespread agreement that there are still a number of important challenges ahead for which support will be needed. At the same time, participants largely concurred on the need to avoid harmful subsidies which increase fleet capacity, thus leading to over-fishing, and to focus instead on the protection of existing resources and marine ecosystems.
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.
The Directorate of Fisheries of Croatia has announced the entry into force of new regulations governing sports fishers that subjects them to new obligations, but also open up areas previously closed to them. A new special license is required for certain kinds of fishing tackle, while a new license is required to fish in national parks, wildlife reserves, and nature parks, areas hitherto closed to sports fishers. Another change is the obligation to tag each of 18 fish species that are recognized as economically important but caught in recreational fisheries. Tagging is by cutting the tail of the fish or by notching cephalopods under the eyes. The idea is to try and prevent the commercial sale of fish caught by recreational fishers. The maximum allowable catch per day is 5 kg of fish and 2 kg of shellfish and cephalopods.
A license for recreational sea fishing can now be purchased at the web shop on the Directorate of Fisheries' website www.mps.hr/ribarstvo. A sport and recreational fishing license can be issued for a one-day, three-day, one-week, one-month or one-year period. Annual licenses can be bought from 1 December to 1 March at authorised dealers for recreational licenses at sea, or at the Directorate of Fisheries’ offices in Zagreb or the field.