Conservation: Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing

Between $10billion and $24billion worth of fish are caught illegally worldwide every year.

IUU Regulation

Image showing illegal fishing boatsThe EU recognises it has a responsibility to play a key role in the global fight against IUU fishing.  As a result, the EU has introduced a new regulation to prevent, deter and eliminate the import of IUU fishery products into the Community, which is due to come into force on 1 January 2010. More information on the new regulation.

What is wrong with IUU fishing?

Billions of dollars worth of fish are being caught illegally every year and this activity has far reaching consequences environmentally, socially and economically. IUU fishing activity directly impacts on the sustainability of fish stocks and efforts to manage fisheries as a sustainable resource. Defra believes strongly that the world’s oceans should be managed sustainably, not ruthlessly and unsustainably exploited, often at the expense of local fishermen.

Economic gain is the main force behind illegal fishing and this fact may hold the key to part of the solution. The demand for fish is growing globally at the same time as the constraints on legal fishing are increasing – together these form a strong motivation for illegal fishing particularly in parts of the world where fisheries governance and control is weak.

The EU is the largest market for fish and importer of fishery products in the world with trading partners across the world.  However, it is estimated that €1.1 billion worth of IUU fishery products are imported into the EU every year (Oceanic development study 2007).

International collaboration on sustainable fisheries

Understanding China’s Fish Trade and Traceability

Defra have funded  a study which explores China’s important role in the global fish trade and examines the progress made by the mainland Chinese fish reprocessing industry towards being able to meet the requirements of the forthcoming EU legislation. Read the study: Understanding China’s fish trade and traceability

Partnership for African Fisheries (PAF)

A new fisheries programme was launched in Africa in spring 2009.  The Partnership for African Fisheries (PAF), is funded by the UK Department for International Development, and will be run by NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development) under the auspices of the African Union.

The Programme is designed to support change and reform in African fisheries to help safeguard these important natural resources into the future, both as a  source of food and as a tool for economic growth. The Programme will create a platform for open debate, exchange of knowledge, experience and best practice, between African nations themselves and through collaboration with other international partners.

For more information about the programme visit: or email

High Seas Task Force

Stopping illegal fishing on the high seas imageUK Fisheries minister, Ben Bradshaw led the international ministerial High Seas Task Force (HSTF) on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing. This resulted in a report Closing the Net, which was published in March 2006. The report contained nine recommendations, which when implemented will help uncover and discourage IUU fishing and improve enforcement action against the culprits.

All relevant documents on High Seas Task Force and IUU fishing can be found at the Task Force website:.

Further information

You can also visit a comprehensive website providing background information on the key issues in the debate around illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, together with news stories, information on events, key documents and links to other relevant websites.

For more information on sustainable fisheries and development:

Page last modified: 01 October 2009
Page published: 14 December 2007