Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: none

European Commission


Brussels, 24 March 2014

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

Why did the Commission propose to the Council to list Belize, Cambodia and Guinea as non-cooperative third countries?

In November 2013, the European Commission proposed to the Council of Ministers to list Belize, Cambodia, Guinea-Conakry as non-cooperative third countries in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing (IP/13/1162). The proposal was made following a warning (yellow card) issued by the Commission to eight third countries in November 2012 (IP/12/1215).

The Commission's analysis took into account several factors including each country's specific failures in fighting IUU fishing and its level of development. During 2013, the Commission continued to cooperate closely, with the third countries that received a warning. Out of the 8 countries who received a warning in 2012 (Belize, Cambodia, Guinea, Panama, Fiji, Togo, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu) only Belize, Cambodia and Guinea did not make credible progress in fulfilling their duties under international law, thereby failing to convincingly improve the situation. Shortcomings are generally linked poor to fisheries management, implementation of control and monitoring measures and the introduction of credible sanctioning mechanisms.

What does the "blacklisting" by the Council mean in practice?

The decision by the Council to place Belize, Cambodia and Guinea on the list of non-cooperating countries means that fisheries products caught by fishing vessels flying the flag of these countries cannot be imported into the EU while the countries remain listed. This information is available on the "catch certificates" which accompany fishing products upon import into the EU.

In addition, the decision triggers further measures including a fishing ban for EU vessels in these countries' waters. Joint fishing operations, the reflagging of EU vessels to these countries, and fisheries agreements with these countries will also be prohibited.

Can a country be de-listed? How will this happen?

Despite today's listing, which is the first of its kind at EU level, the Commission will continue the dialogue with these countries in order to restore the import of sustainably fished products. Once the countries have made credible progress in fulfilling their duties under international law as coastal, port, flag or market State, the Commission can propose to the Council to de-list the countries.

When will the measures enter into force?

The measures will enter into force the day following their publication in the Official Journal of the EU.

What is happening with other cases under investigation?

As regards Panama, Fiji, Togo, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu, the Commission considered that they had made significant progress in addressing the issues highlighted in the Commission decision of 15 November 2012i. Therefore these countries were given time until spring 2014 to implement the measures they had committed to. All these countries have been reporting regularly to the Commission. Several delegations have visited Brussels with this purpose. The Commission is currently concluding its analysis on their progress.

Three countries, Korea, Ghana, Curacao, received a warning, 'yellow card', by the Commission in November 2013 (IP/13/1162). The evaluation process is ongoing with the three countries.

What are the EU rules to fight illegal IUU fishing?

The EU IUU Regulation entered into force on 1 January 2010. The Regulation applies to all landings 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 system thus ensures countries comply with their own conservation and management rules as well as with internationally agreed rules.

In addition to the certification scheme, the Regulation introduces an EU alert system to share information between custom authorities about suspected 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 states and coastal states concerned;

  • the refusal of imports into the EU;

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

  • the listing by the Council of non-cooperating countries;

  • the acceleration of international cooperation against IUU fishing in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and at bilateral level (USA, Japan);

  • the strengthening of the system of mutual assistance messages for the exchange of information on IUU activities;

  • the acceptance of the EU catch certification system by third countries;

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 involving vessels from 27 countries. As a direct consequence of these actions, sanctions against almost 50 vessels, amounting roughly to 8 million EUR, have been imposed by the flag and coastal states concerned.

The Commission has, until now, focused its enforcement action on West Africa and the Pacific Ocean region, where IUU fishing activities are most widespread and have the heaviest toll on marine resource and local communities.

Does the EU cooperate with Member States to enhance control?

The IUU Regulation can only be effective if proper control applies both within the EU and in third country waters. In EU waters the obligations stem from the Control Regulation (1224/2009 EU).

In practice, 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. As a consequence numerous imports have been rejected by EU Member States.

Regular cooperation with flag States' authorities, amongst others in the context of evaluation missions, have further contributed to improved traceability "from net to plate".

As consequence, legislative and administrative reforms aiming at improving the catch certification of the fishery products and the monitoring of their fleet have been introduced in several third countries.

What does the Commission do to address IUU fishing by European vessels or nationals?

In addition to the strict requirements for EU vessels contained in the Control Regulation, the IUU Regulation includes special measures concerning EU nationals. This means that EU Member States can also pursue and punish their nationals involved in illegal fishing activities on vessels flying the flag of any country in the world.

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:


i :

OJ C 354/1 17.11.2012

Side Bar