European Parliament calls to strengthen the EU’s zero-tolerance approach towards illegal fishing globally

Date: January 18, 2024

Today, the European Parliament adopted with an overwhelming majority a report on the impact of illegal fishing on food security and the crucial role the EU has in tackling this issue. The EU IUU Fishing Coalition welcomes this important development as it shows a strong political commitment towards strengthening the EU’s efforts to tackle illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing on a global scale, with a focus on the importance of ownership transparency, harmonised import control and sharing best practices globally.


Improving ownership transparency

The primary driver behind IUU fishing is profit, which makes it essential to identify those who ultimately benefit financially from these activities. That is why the European Parliament, in adopting this report, is calling for “easy access to information on the beneficial ownership of fishing vessels of all flags”, including through the creation and maintenance of comprehensive databases. Such transparency is especially crucial since the new EU Fisheries Control Regulation, which has been in effect since 9 January 2024, now prohibits EU operators, including beneficial owners, from owning, operating or managing vessels registered under the flag of countries that have been red-carded for non-cooperation in combating IUU fishing. This obligation should also enable  free and easy access to public and up-to-date databases for relevant stakeholders, such as civil society, to ensure proper scrutiny.

Effective and harmonised import controls

Differences in import controls and sanctions among EU Member States pose a significant risk, making it easier for products linked with IUU fishing to enter the EU market through Member States with the weakest import control enforcement. This was already highlighted in a 2022 special report from the European Court of Auditors and by the EU IUU Fishing Coalition. The European Parliament, like the Long Distance Fleet and Market Advisory Councils before it, is urging Member States to reinforce their control systems and swiftly implement the new Fisheries Control Regulation. The support of the European Commission and the European Fisheries Control Agency is also key to address these shortcomings and make the EU market watertight against possible IUU imports.

Sharing best practices

The European Parliament also made reference to the work of the EU IUU Fishing Coalition by stressing the importance of catch documentation schemes, including in Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs), as proven tools to improve traceability and fight IUU fishing. The EU’s catch certificate is the most comprehensive worldwide. The European Parliament is also highlighting the role of EU support and of sharing best practices as a means to improve transparency measures in non-EU waters, including through electronic monitoring tools like cameras on board or vessel tracking devices, now mandatory under the EU Fisheries Control Regulation. 

The EU must share its expertise with countries and international bodies to support and encourage the adoption or expansion of catch documentation schemes in a harmonised manner. In doing so, they would significantly reduce gaps in traceability, discourage IUU fishing, and ultimately contribute to the sustainability of fisheries worldwide.

The way forward

As the EU elections approach, the European Parliament’s report serves as a strong call for future EU decision makers and leaders to prioritise the fight against IUU fishing, reinforce the EU’s zero-tolerance approach to these activities, and continue driving global efforts to eradicate IUU fishing.