Industry and NGOs Propose Measures To Help Tackle Global Illegal Fishing Problem

Date: November 25, 2015

Source & Author: EJF & BRC

  • Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing recognised by the UN as a global issue
  • Estimated to cost global economy US$10 – 23.5 billion annually
  • Industry and NGOs say compliance, traceability and communication vital to tackling problem

Improving compliance, traceability and communication in our supply chains are vital to keeping illegally caught fish off our supermarket shelves according to leading retailers, food manufacturers and NGOs. At a roundtable discussion organised by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), industry and NGO experts discussed the global problem of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing with Food and Marine Environment Minister George Eustice and officials from the Marine Management Organisation.

The industry and NGO experts agreed on a series of actions which they believe would go some way towards tackling illegal fish in UK supply chains. They are as follows:

  1. Promoting greater compliance, transparency and accuracy of fishing data on a global level
  2. Ensuring the effective performance of authorities across all EU Member States, for example with regard to the checking of fish imports
  3. Encouraging third countries to set the same high standards in their markets as exist in the UK so as to ensure there is no market for illegal fish
  4. Persuading more third countries to adopt the Port State Measures Agreement

IUU fishing: A global problem with economic, environmental and human rights consequences

IUU or ‘pirate’ fishing causes significant environmental damage, considerable economic losses including to legitimate fishermen, and has wider impacts on the livelihoods and food security of many communities, particularly in the developing world. Losses associated with IUU fishing around the world are valued at US$10 – 23.5 billion annually. It is often associated with other forms of illegality, in particular human trafficking and human rights abuses of crew members aboard fishing vessels.

The need for global action to combat IUU fishing was recognised by the UN General Assembly working group which put together the Sustainable Development Goals which were approved earlier this year. One of the Goals highlights the need to ‘conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development by 2020’, by ‘effectively regulating harvesting, and ending overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and other destructive fishing practices’. 

Mr George Eustice MP Minister for Food and the Marine Environment said:

“Illegal fishing damages our marine environment and supports crime, so it’s crucial we work together to ensure unregulated fish doesn’t enter our food chain and we clamp down on unlicensed fishing wherever it happens. That’s why we work closely with UK Port Health Authorities and at an international level with governments, environmental NGOs and industry to protect our oceans for future generations.”

BRC Director of Food and Sustainability Andrew Opie said:

“For UK retailers, sustainable sourcing is a major priority. The measures agreed by our Roundtable will, we believe, help play a key role in addressing the global problem of IUU fishing which impacts upon not just our economy but also on our environment and society. This Roundtable was the next stage in our ongoing close collaboration with the EJF on avoiding illegal fishing which began with the publication of our joint Guidance document earlier in the year. We look forward to building on our positive collaboration with key stakeholders and to helping take forward the recommendations agreed at the Roundtable”.

EJF Executive Director Steve Trent said:

“Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) or ‘pirate’ fishing is one of the greatest threats to vulnerable marine environments and the people who rely on them. Over 3.5 billion people depend on the oceans for food and income. Alongside the environmental impacts, pirate fishing operators often use forced, bonded or even slave labour to crew their vessels. Consumers around the world do not want to eat fish tainted with slavery, corruption and criminality. That is why I hope that the Guidance Document we have created in collaboration with BRC and WWF will inspire businesses and retailers to scrutinise their supply chains and work to ensure that they are sustainable and free from human rights abuses.”


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