Modernisation of the EU IUU Regulation catch certification scheme: lessons from the CCAMLR e-CDS

Date: January 25, 2017

Source: WWF
Author: Victoria Mundy

In a Communication to the European Parliament and Council dated 1 October 2015[1], the European Commission committed to modernising the catch certificate (CC) scheme established under the EU’s 2010 Regulation on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing[2]. The CC scheme requires all imports of seafood products into the EU to be accompanied by a document (CC) attesting the legal origin of the products and validated by the flag State of the catching vessel.

Modernising the CC scheme will involve migration from a paper-based to an electronic system. The aim is to facilitate the harmonised exchange and cross-checking of CC information at EU level, addressing loopholes that, up to now, have left the system open to fraud[3] and potential laundering of IUU fisheries products into the market. The new IT system is expected to reduce administrative burden on national authorities, for example through the application of a harmonised approach to risk analysis that will assist in identifying high-risk consignments for further scrutiny[4].

According to the 2015 Communication, the new IT system was to be launched by the end of 2016. However, there have been delays in this process. The Commission is currently consulting with member states on their requirements of an EU-wide IT system, as well as on the procedures and systems developed at the national level, which will need to be configured to the new EU level interface.

The modernisation of the IUU Regulation CC scheme is a significant task, and should draw upon previous experience where available. A number of member states have developed national IT systems to implement the CC scheme, some of which incorporate automated cross-check functions and risk analysis tools that provide examples of best practice implementation. In addition, systems developed outside of the EU context can provide important lessons for the EU’s endeavour.

One such example is the electronic catch documentation scheme (e-CDS) established by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). CCAMLR’s Catch Documentation Scheme (CDS) was adopted in 2000. The e-CDS was piloted in 2004 and its use was made mandatory in 2010. In 2014 the system was subject to an independent expert review, which provided extensive recommendations to improve the existing e-CDS[5]. It was agreed that a new platform was required to support the ongoing implementation of the e-CDS and to accommodate the review’s recommendations. The development of the new e-CDS required the full documentation of functional specifications, engagement with e-CDS users and several rounds of testing and refinement. It is currently in the final stages of development and full implementation is expected in February 2017.

This paper sets out a number of recommendations from the recent review and upgrade of the CCAMLR e-CDS that could inform the modernisation of the CC scheme under the EU IUU Regulation.

Lessons from the CCAMLR e-CDS

There are crucial differences between the IUU Regulation CC scheme and CCAMLR CDS, which mean that not all lessons from the CCAMLR experience can be directly transposed onto the EU process (see Explanatory note below). However, given the extensive “know-how” generated in the CCAMLR context, it seems appropriate to consider this experience in the development of the new EU system. This is consistent with progress towards the harmonisation and interoperability of catch documentation schemes at the global level, as exemplified by the FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Catch Documentation Schemes currently under discussion[6].

The CCAMLR e-CDS has undergone various refinements and upgrades since its implementation in 2010 and the current development of the new e-CDS is approaching best practice in terms of a catch documentation scheme. A number of issues have been considered in the upgrade, and functions incorporated into the new system, which can inform the modernisation of the IUU Regulation CC scheme. These may be summarised as follows[7].

  1. Design of business rules (functions) to ensure data uniformity. CCAMLR’s new e-CDS will make use of business rules such as drop down menus (e.g. for vessel names, Exclusive Economic Zones and species) and generate unique document numbers to ensure the uniformity and accuracy of data as it is entered into the system. Individual user access will allow the system to record the time a catch document is completed and by whom, providing full auditability of each document generated. These business rules will be constrained to a certain extent, but not to such a degree that they cause impediments to the operation of the system.
  1. Dealing with splits of landings (where a single landing is exported to different recipients) and mass balancing (ensuring exports do not exceed total catch weight) within the system. The new CCAMLR e-CDS will record the amount of catch associated with a particular catch document and will not allow for more to be exported than was reported as caught. The balance of the catch available for export will be visible and the system will calculate or “count down” the remaining catch each time an export document is generated. Catch, export and re-export documents will be linked in the system through the generation of unique document IDs that are recorded on subsequent documents (e.g. the unique IDs of the original catch and export documents will be recorded on any subsequent re-export document).
  1. Generation of data queries and reports for users. A range of data queries and reports will be available to e-CDS users via the new CCAMLR system. Data can be readily downloaded into third-party software applications such as Excel for reporting purposes and further analysis. 
  1. Reconciliation of CDS data with external trade datasets. The CCAMLR Secretariat has been working on two main types of reconciliation of e-CDS data with other catch and trade datasets:
  • Reconciliation of e-CDS data with reported catch and effort data. The results will be communicated to flag States and discussed with CCAMLR Parties.
  • Reconciliation of e-CDS data with reported global trade data. The aim of this type of reconciliation is to establish the extent to which global toothfish trade is covered by the e-CDS. The first run of the analysis identified gaps in the amounts reported in CCAMLR catch documents for certain flag States and provided an insight into toothfish trade in countries that do not participate in the CDS. Going forward, the FAO GlobeFish dataset is likely to be used for such analyses; however, the Secretariat is currently looking to resolve issues with global trade statistics to ensure these are a fair representation of global toothfish trade.
  1. Inclusion and management of datasets in the system. In the new system, each flag State will be responsible for actively managing datasets held within the e-CDS, e.g. on authorised vessels, licences and VMS. This will increase accuracy and ensure there is only one entry for a particular vessel. An individual data entry can also be selected as “unauthorised” for a period of time so that it does not appear in the drop down menu – e.g. the period of time for which a vessel is not authorised to fish in the Convention area.
  1. Consideration of conversion factors. The CCAMLR Secretariat recognises the need to consider conversion factors in the e-CDS, even if only to detect the most obvious cases of mis-declaration and fraud. However, this is challenging due to the variability of conversion factors for toothfish. The Secretariat therefore plans to look across industry to see if it is possible to reach a broad estimate of conversion factors that would raise a flag for further investigation.
  1. Migration from a paper-based to electronic system. A key lesson that emerged during the development and revision of the CCAMLR e-CDS is the need for clarity on what the system is trying to achieve from the outset. The emphasis should be on designing the system with clearly defined objectives in mind, and with less of a focus on mirroring the elements of the paper document within the electronic system.


Explanatory note

Key differences between the CCAMLR e-CDS and the EU IUU Regulation CC scheme 

Broadly speaking, the CCAMLR CDS is a multilateral instrument, applying to all catches of toothfish within and outside of the CCAMLR Convention Area, from the point of landing through to export and re-export. In contrast, the EU’s CC scheme is a unilateral instrument, applying to only a proportion of catches within any given fishery or area (i.e. those destined for the EU), from the point of export to the EU market. While the EU CC scheme relies primarily on flag State responsibility to attest the legality of catches, the CCAMLR CDS relies also on port State controls to verify the weight of the catch at the point of landing.

In addition, the modernisation of the EU IUU Regulation CC scheme will not transform the system into an electronic CDS along the lines of the CCAMLR model. In other words, the CC will not be generated as an electronic document at the point of export from the third country to the EU. Rather, under the new EU IUU Regulation IT system, information from incoming CCs will be uploaded at the point of import into the EU, either by the relevant member state authority or EU importer. Import CCs will, for now, continue to be generated in paper format in third countries, except in countries that have opted to implement an electronic CC. The EU IUU Regulation provides the possibility for a CC to be generated electronically at the point of export, but does not make this mandatory[8].


[2] Council Regulation (EC) No. 1005/2008 of 29 September 2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (OJ L 286, 29.10.2008).

[3] See, for example:




[7] CCAMLR Secretariat, pers. comm., November 2016.

[8] See Art. 12(4) of the EU IUU Regulation.

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