What is the EU IUU Regulation?

The EU Regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing entered into force on 1 January, 2010. Globally, it is the most effective anti-IUU fishing trade legislation of its kind to date.

The Regulation aims to ensure:

  • only marine fisheries products validated as legal by the competent flag State (i.e. the country which authorises the vessel that caught the fish) or exporting State can be imported to or exported from the EU.
  • an IUU vessel list is issued regularly, based on IUU vessels identified by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.
  • the possibility to blacklist States that turn a blind eye to illegal fishing activities.
  • EU operators who fish illegally anywhere in the world, under any flag, face substantial penalties that are proportionate to the economic value of their catch, which deprive them of any profit.

The EU IUU Regulation applies to all landings and transhipments of EU and non-EU fishing vessels in EU ports, and to all trade of marine fishery products to and from the EU. It aims to make sure that no illegally caught fisheries products end up on the EU market.

To achieve this, the Regulation requires flag States to certify the origin and legality of the fish, thereby ensuring the full traceability of all marine fishery products traded from and into the EU. The measures aim to ensure that countries comply with their own conservation and management rules as well as with internationally agreed rules. When flag States are unable to certify the legality of products in line with international rules, the European Commission starts a process of cooperation and assistance to help them improve their legal framework and practices.

The IUU Regulation has three core components:

  1. Catch Certificate Scheme
    Only marine fisheries products validated as legal by the competent flag State can be imported to or exported from the EU.
  1. Third country carding process
    The IUU Regulation enables the EU to issue a “yellow card” and enter into dialogue with non-EU countries that are found to be inadequately fighting IUU fishing in their fisheries. If these countries fail to put the required reforms in place in a timely manner, the EU issues a “red card”: sanctions, including trade bans on their fisheries products, can be imposed.
  1. Penalties for EU nationals 
    EU nationals who engage in or support IUU fishing anywhere in the world, under any flag, face substantial penalties proportional to the economic value of their catch to deprive them of any profit, thereby undermining the economic driver.

Successes of the EU IUU Regulation

  • Since 2010, the Commission has investigated more than 200 cases of IUU fishing, involving vessels from 27 countries. As a consequence, sanctions against almost 50 vessels and amounting to roughly €8 million have been imposed by flag and coastal States, and both legislative and administrative reforms to improve catch certification and fleet monitoring have been introduced in several countries outside of the EU.
  • Since 2012, the EU has issued a “yellow card” to 23 countries, a “red card” to 6 countries, and delisted 15 countries (i.e. cleared them of yellow or red cards). Click here to see the current state of play of the EU carding scheme.
  • So far, 91 third countries have notified the Commission that they have the necessary legal instruments, dedicated procedures and appropriate administrative structures for the certification of catches by vessels flying their flag.
  • In total, the European Commission has entered into dialogue with more than 60 third countries to assess the adequacy of their systems and frameworks to combat IUU fishing in line with international law.

The bigger picture

The EU IUU Regulation is just one of a multitude of responses in the global fight against IUU fishing. It is crucial that global, regional and national measures are consistent and mutually supportive. 

At the EU level, this requires the alignment of the Regulation on the Sustainable Management of External Fishing Fleets (SMEFF) with the more stringent provisions of the IUU Regulation and the EU Common Fisheries Policy to prevent IUU fishing activities by EU vessels fishing abroad In addition, existing EU fisheries control measures should be enforced to ensure compliance by EU vessels within EU waters. 

At the international level, this requires a coherent response by major seafood importing States to ensure that IUU fishing is fully eliminated and not displaced to markets with weaker, or non-existent, regulatory controls.


Leading the fight against illegal fishing: The EU IUU Regulation – Making it work, together, July 2015
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The EU IUU Regulation: Building on success – EU progress in the global fight against illegal fishing, July 2015
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