Further progress required by RFMOs to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Date: June 5, 2020

To mark the International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, the EU IUU Coalition has released recommendations for new measures to be adopted by four key Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) in order to increase transparency and tackle IUU fishing globally. RFMOs play a vital role in the conservation and management of regions beyond national jurisdiction, which can be hotbeds of IUU activities given their remoteness and the relatively weak governance framework that presides over them. As such, the EU IUU Coalition actively works to promote transparency and good governance measures in RFMOs. This mission is outlined in the animation below.


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In May 2019, the EU IUU Coalition released a report titled Achieving transparency and combating IUU fishing in RFMOs. This report summarised the results of a gap analysis undertaken in four RFMOs, revealing where governance could be improved to increase transparency and tackle IUU fishing. These RFMOs included the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA). The rules in place within these RFMOs were evaluated against a set of best practice measures that the EU IUU Coalition recognises as essential for combating IUU fishing. The measures relate to four key areas: identification and tracking of vessels, landing and trade of fish products, deterrent sanctions for nationals and vessels engaging in IUU fishing, and transparency in RFMO procedures.

Since this analysis, there have been a number of measures amended, or new measures have been adopted which align with measures advocated for by the EU IUU Coalition. However, following an updated comparative analysis by the Coalition published on 5 June 2020 to measure the progress of each RFMO over the last year, it is clear that improvements are still needed. 

It is in light of this latest analysis that the EU IUU Coalition is publishing a series of policy briefs to highlight a series of essential measures which still need to be adopted by each of the four RFMOs. Whilst we acknowledge that the ongoing ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic have put considerable strain on RFMOs and the fishing sector more broadly, actors across the industry must do all they can to continue the fight against IUU fishing. In fact, with the pandemic threatening to create an enabling environment for IUU fishing, the need for stricter conservation and management measures is perhaps now more acute than ever. Therefore, to promote transparency and tackle IUU fishing, we ask the following of the contracting parties and cooperating non-contracting parties (CPCs):

General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM):

  • Amend Resolution GFCM/41/2017/6 and Recommendation GFCM/33/2009/5 so that all eligible vessels are required to have an International Maritime Organization (IMO) number and ensure this information is included in the Authorised Vessel List.
  • Amend Recommendation GFCM/33/2009/6 to strengthen the public GFCM Authorised Vessel List to make it more complete, transparent and functional.
  • Adopt a new Recommendation on the establishment of a regional Vessel Monitoring System (VMS).
  • Take effective action against cases of non-compliance with conservation and management measures.

Read the full position paper here.


International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT):

  • Amend Recommendation 06-14 and strengthen the implementation of Recommendation 18-08 to prevent nationals from deriving benefits from or supporting IUU fishing.
  • Amend Recommendation 13-13 to expand IMO number reporting requirements to all eligible vessels.
  • Adopt a new measure to ensure safe and decent working and living conditions for crew members.

Read the full position paper here.


Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC):

  • Adopt a transparent compliance mechanism by amending Appendix V of the IOTC Rules of Procedure (2014) – the Compliance Committee terms of reference and rules of procedure.
  • Adopt a new Recommendation to improve traceability through an electronic Catch Documentation Scheme (CDS).
  • Amend Resolution 19/06 to improve monitoring and reduce opportunities for fish caught through IUU fishing to be laundered during transshipments.
  • Amend Resolution 14/05 to increase transparency of reported information on access agreements.
  • Adopt a (partially) centralised VMS.
  • Amend Resolution 07/01 in order to prevent nationals from further deriving benefits from or supporting IUU fishing.
  • Adopt a new Recommendation on reporting operational incidents at sea and consider taking other measures to ensure safe and decent working and living conditions on board vessels.

Read the full position paper here.


Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA):

  • Amend CMM 2019/07 to require public reporting of target species or species groups and to align data reporting requirements with the recently expanded IMO numbering eligibility criteria.
  • Amend CMM 2017-08 to require an information exchange scheme, in line with requirements under the FAO Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA).
  • Amend CMM 2019/10 to make all data on transshipments publicly available.
  • Amend CMM 2018/11 to further reinforce the deterrence framework by including, for instance, non-discriminatory trade measures.

Read the full position paper here.


Given the upheaval in the fisheries sector arising as result of the COVID-19 pandemic, RFMOs are being forced to either cancel, postpone or hold important meetings online. It is important that these disruptions do not dampen ambitions within RFMOs, as measures to ensure transparency in the sector are now more urgently needed than ever.


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