The EU Regulation to end illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing prohibits all EU nationals from engaging in or supporting IUU fishing activities and requires Member States to penalise any EU individual or EU-based entity proven to have been involved in IUU fishing and related trade, with effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions. This relates to cases where:
- EU-flagged vessels have been engaged in IUU fishing directly;
- non-EU flagged vessels engaged with IUU fishing have been traced back to EU ownership; or
- EU nationals benefit financially from profits linked with IUU fishing.
In the event of serious infringements, EU Member States must impose a sanction up to five times the value of the fishery products obtained through committing the offence, and eight times the value of the fishery products in case of a repeated infringement within a five-year period.
The need for better implementation
Research by the EU IUU fishing Coalition has identified weaknesses in Member State import controls and uneven standards which could be providing a route for seafood products that are non-compliant with the EU IUU Regulation to enter the EU market. Coalition research has also noted shifting trade flows of seafood products among several EU Member States that are at high-risk of IUU fishing following the warning (yellow-carding) of certain exporting countries.
These trends suggest that operators may be exploiting EU borders that are seen as more porous to import high-risk and, potentially, illegally-caught seafood. This warrants the urgent need for improved coordination and harmonisation of import controls across Member States.
The Coalition is calling for better coordination and cooperation between transit and destination Member States to ensure that catch certificates for seafood imports are effectively scrutinised, and that robust monitoring and import controls are applied consistently across the entire EU border. In 2019, the EU introduced CATCH, an IT system digitalising the catch certificate scheme and thus facilitating the harmonised, coordinated and risk-based monitoring of seafood imports. Its use must now be made mandatory to ensure better seafood traceability.
Commentary on Member State legal obligations to control seafood imports under the European Union’s illegal fishing Regulation, June 2017
Combating illegal fishing in Germany, February 2017