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European Commission


Brussels, 26 November 2013

Question and Answers on the EU's fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing

Why does the Commission list Belize, Cambodia and Guinea-Conakry as non-cooperative third countries taken?

The Commission's decision to list these three third countries (Belize, Cambodia, Guinea-Conakry) was taken following a warning (yellow card) issued to eight countries last year. Each country was given a reasonable deadline within which to react and to resolve the issues identified.

The analysis took into account factors including each country's commitment to the fight against IUU fishing and its level of development. During this year the Commission has worked, through dialogue and cooperation, with the third countries that received a warning. Out of the 8 countries who received a warning in 2012, only Belize, Cambodia and Guinea-Conakry have not made credible progress in fulfilling their duties under international law and have failed to improve the situation.

What does this listing mean in practice?

The consequence of the Commission Identification Decision is that EU Member States will have an additional tool to verify imports from these countries and if necessary refuse importation of products whose catch certificate has been validated by the authorities of one of the non-cooperating countries. The Commission promotes a coordinated approach of Member States in this respect.

At the same time, the Commission will also submit a proposal to the Council to place Belize, Cambodia and Guinea-Conakry on the list of non-cooperating countries. Upon decision of the Council to put the three countries on the list of non-cooperating countries, fisheries products caught by fishing vessels flying the flag of these countries cannot be imported into the EU any longer.

Other technical measures will also come into force including a ban on fishing in the waters of these countries by EU flagged vessels, on joint fishing operations, on the reflagging of EU vessels to these countries, and on fisheries agreements with them.

Why have third countries been pre-identified now?

The Commission co-operates with a number of third countries and carries out evaluation missions to assess their compliance with the international obligations in the fight against IUU. The Commission puts emphasis on cooperation to solve problems but there are third countries where the situation is still problematic even after years of informal cooperation.

In this respect the Commission has decided to proceed with a second round of yellow cards. The Commission is informing South Korea, Ghana and Curaçao of the precise reasons why they fail to keep up with international obligations to fight illegal fishing. The Commission will now enter into a more formal dialogue with these three countries, propose actions, and ensure that a suitable action plan is implemented to remedy the situation.

The Commission will then evaluate each country's progress on an individual basis. The first progress evaluation is expected within 6 months of the publication of the Commission's Decision.

Given the Commission's on-going monitoring of potential IUU activities that could affect EU countries and the continuing evaluation work being carried out by the Commission, assessing compliance, control and enforcement, it cannot be excluded that other countries could be given yellow cards in the near future.

What are the EU rules in place to fight illegal fishing?

The 2008 EU IUU Regulation entered into force on 1 January 2010. The Regulation applies to all landings and transhipments of EU and third-country fishing vessels in EU ports, and 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 scheme ensures countries comply with their own conservation and management rules.

In addition to the certification scheme, the Regulation also addresses the issues of port state control and of mutual assistance. Moreover it introduces an EU alert system to detect the most suspect cases of illegal practices.

What has been achieved so far?

Since its entry into force in 2010, the IUU Regulation's reach and impact on the fight against IUU fishing has increased year-on-year.

The IUU Regulation has had far-reaching impacts, leading to:

  • investigations on presumed IUU vessels and the subsequent imposition of sanctions by flag or coastal States;

  • the enforcement of EU market State responsibilities and the strengthening of the system of mutual assistance messages for the exchange of information on IUU activities;

  • the refusal of imports into the EU;

  • the pre-identification and identification of non-cooperating countries;

  • the implementation of flag and coastal State responsibilities, with the adoption of measures by third countries of IUU legislation and acceptance of the EU catch certification system;

  • the promotion of international cooperation against IUU fishing1;

  • cooperation with other stakeholders, in particular Member States and NGOs, who have created real public awareness about the problems of IUU fishing.

So far, 90 third countries have notified the Commission that they have in place the necessary legal instruments, the dedicated procedures, and the appropriate administrative structures for the certification of the catches by vessels flying their flag.

Since 2010, the Commission has investigated more than 200 cases with vessels from 27 countries. As a direct consequence of these actions, sanctions against almost 50 vessels have been imposed by flag and coastal states for an amount of roughly 8 million euros.

The Commission has focused its enforcement action on geographic areas where IUU fishing activities are most widespread and have the most disastrous impact - not only on the marine resources, but also on the livelihoods of local communities, like West Africa or the Pacific Region.

How does the EU cooperate with Member States to enhance control and compliance?

The IUU Regulation can only be effective with proper control and compliance, both within the EU and in third waters. In EU waters the obligations resting on EU vessels stem from the Control Regulation (1224/2009 EU). More than 100 alert messages were sent to EU Member States' authorities to direct their controls, check situations of risk, and to request investigations on presumed IUU fishing activities and serious infringements.

The Commission has also promoted more widely the exchange of information and cooperation between the competent authorities in EU Member States so that they can fight IUU fishing in EU waters more effectively. As a consequence numerous imports to the EU have been rejected by EU Member States.

With third countries, daily cooperation with flag States' authorities as well as evaluation missions by the EU have contributed to improved traceability from the fishing grounds to the EU market (i.e. from net to plate).

Legislative and administrative reforms that aim to improve the catch certification of the fishery products and the monitoring, control and surveillance of their fleet have been introduced. This is often accompanied by a proactive role in ensuring compliance of international law and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations recommendations.

Figures on IUU fishing

The estimated global value of IUU fishing is approximately 10 billion euros per year. Between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish are caught illegally a year, which corresponds to at least 15% of world catches.

More information:

Contacts :

Oliver Drewes (+32 2 299 24 21)

Lone Mikkelsen (+32 2 296 05 67)

1 :

In particular through joint statements on combatting IUU fishing with the US and Japan, catch certification schemes in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and cooperation with the INTERPOL Fisheries Crime Working Group

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