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European Commission


Brussels, 10 June 2014

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

Why has the European Commission decided to warn the Philippines and Papua New Guinea of the risk of being identified as non-cooperative countries?

The Commission's decision to warn the Philippines and Papua New Guinea as to their risk of being identified as non-cooperating was taken after a thorough analysis of their national systems for implementing the provisions of the IUU regulation (EC) 1005/2008. The analysis took into account each country's deficiencies in the fight against IUU fishing and its level of development.

The reasons for this formal warning – 'yellow card' - have been clearly outlined and communicated to both countries with particular focus on their failings in respect of international obligations as flag, coastal, port and market State. The Commission will now enter into a more formal dialogue with these two countries so as to propose actions to be incorporated into a formal Action Plan to rectify the identified deficiencies.

In parallel, the Commission continues to work and cooperate with third countries to ensure correct implementation of international fisheries rules and to promote the fight against IUU fishing. The future developments will depend on the willingness of these countries to cooperate actively with the Commission and address shortcomings in the fight against IUU fishing.

In 2012, the Philippines were the 12th largest fish producer in the world (FAO figures). The average catches in the waters of Papa New Guinea amounted to 700,000 tons in 2012.

What happens if the third countries concerned do not improve their situation?

The European Commission sets a reasonable deadline for third counties to react and improve their fisheries control systems. Informal discussions began in late 2011/early 2012 with both countries. However, insufficient progress has led to this pre-identification which opens the path for a formal dialogue.

In this further stage the Commission proposes to include clear benchmarks and criteria into the action plan to demonstrate progress. The Commission will then evaluate each country's progress on an individual basis. The first progress evaluation is expected within 6 months after the publication of the Commission's Decision.

The Commission hopes that the issues can be solved through dialogue and cooperation with the third countries concerned. If, however, they do not fulfil their duties under international law and fail to improve the current situation, then the EU can proceed to trade measures. Listing as non-cooperating third country is done through a Council Decision.

What is happening with other cases under investigation?

Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo and Vanuatu received formal warnings – 'yellow cards' - under the IUU Regulation in 2012 (IP/12/1215), and Ghana, Curaçao and Korea in 2013 (IP/13/1162). Most of these countries have cooperated constructively with the Commission making significant progress in their fisheries management systems in order to curb illegal fishing. They have developed new legislation and improved their monitoring, control and inspection systems.

In March 2014, upon proposal of the Commission the Council of Ministers adopted trade measures against Belize, Cambodia and Guinea for their lack of commitment to tackling the problem of illegal fishing (IP/14/304). Fisheries products caught by vessels from these countries are banned from being imported into the EU.

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

The EU's 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 wild 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 leading to 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 8m EUR, have been imposed by the flag and coastal states concerned.

The Commission has focused its enforcement action on geographic areas, such as West Africa and the Western Pacific 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 a 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.

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:



Press Conference by Maria Damanaki:

Website on the EU rules to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing:

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