With changing time, threat to maritime has evolved from piracy to
Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU). Fishing index which data illegal,
unreported and unregulated fishing in 152 countries, has announced China 'the
worst offender of 2021'. China believed to be accounted for 85 to 90 percent
of IUU. Illegal fishing by China in own and other countries coastal waters
has raised both socio and economic problems.
Recently, on 24May, 2022 the
leaders of Quadrilateral security Dialogue known as Quad meet to deal with
illegal fishing by China in global waters. Illegal fishing by china has affected
the livelihood of small fishers of other countries along with the maritime
environment. It has endangered the rare species and coral life in marine. Bycatch, refer to catching of useless or unrequired animals, lead to discard of
protected and endangered species. The illegal fishing leads to overfishing,
which depletes the population of fish in waters causing decrease in number of
Under the United Nation Convention on Laws of sea, the coastal countries have
right over 200 nautical miles 'Exclusive Economic Zone'. The country has
explicit right over the natural resources and can use the EEZ for economic
purpose. To reduce the number of illegal fishing in coastal water, strong
policies needs to be implement.
However, fishing in the area beyond the EEZ
known as High seas may not be illegal but still it cause depletion in
maritime environment. The issue of illegal fishing can be overcome by strong
control over market and consumption of artificial animal protein, which will
result in increase number of reproduction in fishes and stable marine life
Marine life has the most biological diversity on the planet and this
diversity covers 71 percent of oceans on earth's surface. The marine life is
source of food, oxygen, employment, economy and many other aspects, which are
significant for human being and its development. However, with the increase in
population, its ecosystem is being comprised with deep ocean mining, overfishing,
offshore drilling, industrial, agricultural and residential waste, oil spilling,
Overfishing is the aspect, which is causing exceptional harm to this ecosystem.
Fisheries being the source of food are being harmed by illegal, unreported and
unregulated fishing activities. IUU activities have increased immensely over
past 20 years in national jurisdictions and high seas. The cause of activities
is the lack of stringent laws and policies.
IUU fishing Impact worldwide:
Strategies to eliminate IUU fishing
Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) is an umbrella word, which is
inclusive of various fishing activities. IUU activities are contradictory to
efforts of states to conserve and manage the fishing stocks. These terms has
been understood by International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate
Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU) of Food and agricultural
organization of United Nations as follows:
- Illegal fishing: It refers to fishing conducted by national or
foreign vessels in waters of state jurisdiction without state permission,
vessels with states flags who are parties to regional fisheries management
in violation of national laws and international obligations.
- Unreported fishing: It refers to unreported or misreported
fishing stocks to relevant regional fisheries management.
- Unregulated fishing: It refers to those vessels which are without
nationality or to the area or fishing stocks where no law for management of
fisheries exist and state is under obligation to protect the fisheries.
- Statistics of IUU
IUU fishing index was introduced in 2019 to analyze overall performance of 152
countries in combating IUU activities. It analyzes the countries on basis of 40
indicators and score on coastal, flag, port and general responsibilities. The
nearest to 1 are best performing and to 5 are worst performing.
1 fish in every 5 fish caught is through IUU, which is responsible for 11-26
million tons fish loss. This loss is estimated to hold US$10-23 billion economic
value. China has been ranked worst performer in preventing IUU activities.
China is the country with highest number of registered fishing vessels, which
are around 17,000 and around 1,000 lodged under various flags of convenience.
However, USA and European union have 285 and 225 registered vessels,
China with depletion of fisheries in South and East China Sea
has started to intrude in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Oman and Yemen. Distant
water fleets are intruding to Indian Ocean and western coastline of South
Africa. It is estimated that 40percent of fish caught from the west
coastline of Africa are through IUU activities due to which African states near
west coastline like Gambia, Guinea, Mauritania and Senegal are experiencing loss
of approximately 3 billion USD annually. 34 percent and 33 percent are the
next highest proportion of total IUU fishing in west central Pacific Ocean and
northwest Pacific Ocean, respectively.
Furthermore, EU is accused of overfishing yellowfin tuna in the Indian Ocean.
The Indian Ocean is surrounded by Asia, Africa and Australia but EU is the
largest harvester of tuna. Spain and France, nations of EU are harvesting in
Indian Ocean with 43 vessels. In 2019, it was estimated that they caught 70,000
tons of yellowfin tuna more than Indian Ocean coastal states.
Russia rank second in IUU fishing activities. Russia is second biggest exporter
for crab in the world. The United States and the EU account for nearly half
of Russia's overall crab exports, according to Rosrybolovstvo, 'the country's
- Impact on Economy
Illicit trading of fish stocks accounts the loss of US $16 to US $50 billion
while losses to countries tax revenue accounts US $2 to US $4 billion. Loss
from illicit trade has detrimental effects on individuals, society, and
governments as well as nature. Over three
Billion people depends on marine and coastal biodiversity for livelihood, of
which around 200 million are occupied in fisheries. Illegal fishing directly
affect these small fisherman and job opportunities arising from fish stocks
transportation leading to poverty and food insecurity.
The IUU practices by
states are affecting the small-scale fisherman in the neighboring countries and
overall economy of developing or poorer countries. China provide high rate of
subsidies, which encourage overfishing eventually to illegal one. These
subsidies depress developing or poorer countries prices and exports. Heavy
subsidies by china have reduced income of fisherman around the world.
- Impact on Marine life
Environmental loss from illegal fishing accounts more than economical loss as it
directly affects the marine ecosystem. With the increasing population, demand
for seafood or animal protein has also increased. To meet increased demand of
today, states are exploiting nature both on land and water, which imbalances the
ecosystem. Illegal fishing creates barren Ocean causing steady increase of IUU
activities in high seas.
Illegal fishing has immensely affected the fish stock
in developing countries coastal regions. Fishing vessels are introduced to ocean
in large number, which outrun the power of fishes to replenish their stocks.
These vessels often use prohibited gear, which catches the non-targeted species
like turtles, sharks or dolphins, which leads to discard of protected or
endangered species. Due to unreported fishing stock, the government is unable to
manage the required amount of fisheries into marine ecosystem.
Not only illegal fishing, but the waste of fishing vessels also affects the
marine ecosystem. It is estimated that each minute 15 tons of plastic is
discarded into the ocean, which inhabit for eternity. The sunken ship,
discarded plastic waste or fishing net, oil spill, noises and other, disturbs
the peaceful habitat of aqua world. With climate change and exceeding presence
of carbon dioxide, marine water become more acidic and its pH level drops.
Continuous change in the temperature effects the reproduction cycle of species.
This exploitation cause irreparable loss to coral reefs and wildlife on seabed.
Removal of IUU activities will eliminate marine insecurity, piracy and help to
restore or replenish fish stocks, which are on the verge of extinction.
Illegal fishing is the global issue, which can be dealt only with laws and
policies applicable globally. This objective can be achieved with the
unification of states effort to deal with illegal fishing. Various international
instrument like 2001, International plan of Action to prevent, deter and
eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IPOA-IUU), 2005 Model
scheme on port state measures to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported
fishing and later in 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measure to prevent, deter
and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (PSM Agreement) has
- International Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal,
Unreported and Unregulated fishing by Food and Agriculture organization of
United Nation. 
IPOA-IUU is the instrument, which is applicable on all the states, entities and
fishers. FAO committee on fisheries approved the plan on 2nd march, 2001.
Illegal fishing does not existed in 1982,United Nation Convention on Laws of
Seas (UNCLOS), it was first termed in Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living
Resources (CCAMLR), 1997. It was recognized by European Union in CCAMLR that IUU
fishing is causing irreparable damage and requires combine efforts of all the
flag and coastal states. Hence, IPOA-IUU is the first instrument adopted for
dealing with this cause.
Objective of this plan is to prevent, deter and
eliminate the illegal fishing with combine efforts of states, which included
establishment of Regional fisheries management organization (RMFO). The state
can make laws in accordance to Code of Conduct for responsible fisheries,
1995 and United Nation Convention on Laws of Sea, 1982. A proper and
effective monitoring, control and surveillance system for ensuring the
implementation of laws is to be established. Number of flagged fishing vessels,
their owner, fish stocks, abandoned fishing vessels to be recorded by the
After adoption of IPOA-IUU, secretary-general FAO proposed a draft on 'Port
state Measures of Foreign fishing vessels', 2002. It discussed about role of
state to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing along with the
identification of issues incorporated in Regional Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
to be known as 'Model Scheme'. 'Model scheme on port state measures to combat
illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing' was adopted in 26th Committee on
Fisheries of FAO, 2005.
'Model Scheme' and IPOA-IUU both are soft laws in nature. Hence, they are not
legally binding upon the member states.
In 61st United Nation General Assembly, states were encouraged to develop an FAO
instrument based on Model Scheme and IPOA-IUU, which is legally binding. Hence,
in 2009 Agreement on Port State Measure to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal,
unreported and unregulated fishing (PSM Agreement) was adopted, which was hard
law in nature. The objective of the PSM Agreement is to "prevent, deter and
eliminate IUU fishing through the implementation of effective port State
measures, and thereby to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use
of living marine resources and marine ecosystems".
Later, Guidelines regarding Flag state responsibilities were adopted on 28
February 2013 and were endorsed by the FAO COFI at its 2014 session. This is
because, according to FAO, "some States, after authorizing vessels to fly their
flags, fail to meet their obligations under international law with respect to
the supervision and control of these vessels" or "do not provide proper
authorizations for their vessels to fish once they assume the State's flag".
Though the guidelines are soft laws but it can be assumed that FAO may in future
adopt them as hard laws similar to 'Model Scheme' as flag state responsibilities
plays a very important role in combating IUU fishing. Guidelines primarily deal
with areas beyond national jurisdiction or high seas. They can be applicable to
areas of national jurisdiction or EEZ only with the consent of state.
International instrument does not involve state private affairs as it could harm
their sovereignty. Hence, most states may not be ready to accept the Guidelines
to be applied, whether voluntarily or compulsorily, in their territorial seas
and EEZs yet.
- Sustainable Development Goal 14: United Nation
In UN Summit, 2015, on the 2030 Agenda: "Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda
for Sustainable Development", 17 Sustainable Development goals (SDGs) were
adopted. These SDGs cover broad range of social and economic development issues.
SDG 14 is about " life below water". The first seven targets are known as
'outcome target', which are as follows:
The last three targets are known as 'means of achieving' targets, which are as follows:
- Target 14.1 Reduce marine Pollution
- Target 14.2 Protect and restore ecosystem
- Target 14.3 Reduce ocean acidification
- Target 14.4 Sustainable fishing
- Target 14.5 Conserve coastal and marine areas
- Target 14.6 End subsidies contributing to overfishing
- Target 14.7 Increase the economic benefits from sustainable use of marine resources
- Target A. Increase scientific knowledge, research and technology for ocean health
- Target B. Support small-scale fishers
- Target C. Implement and enforce international sea law
According to the 2020 report on progress towards the Sustainable Development
Goals, the current efforts to protect oceans, marine environments and
small-scale fishers are not meeting the need to protect the resources.
Subsidies have been provided to developing countries to enhance their fishery
stocks and trade. However, subsidies are beneficial only for short term and
would have adversary affects in long term. Though, COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has
been beneficial for ocean as the pollution and pollutant reduced but it is
estimated that 12 billion single-used face masks are being thrown out monthly
which poses a large threat to human health and the surrounding environment.
- Eliminating subsidies:
Subsidies were introduced to address social equity
issues and conservation concerns, and to incentivize economic growth. Subsidies
helped developing nation in economic growth and industrialization process. China
provides largest number of subsidies. Hence, when it provides subsidies to
trawlers on manufacturing of fleet, fuels or fishers, it leads to illegal
fishing. Subsidies on illegal fishing, overfished and overcapacity vessels needs
to be eliminated.
No subsidies on overfishing and overcapacity vessels will be
more effective than illegal fishing as illegal fishing is inclusive of both.
Hence, elimination of subsidies on overfishing and overcapacity vessels will
automatically result in lack of IUU fishing. SDG 14, target to end subsidies
contributing to overfishing in Target 14.6.
- Hard laws:
Hard laws are the laws, which have legal binding power. Absence of hard laws
leads to immense increase of IUU fishing. However, international
agreement prefers soft laws over hard laws as they are flexible and immediate to
needs. Hard laws bind the party for long term and are rigid nature as require
long procedure for amendments.
Soft laws are adopted as hard laws, when the
required objective is being achieved and nations consent to these benefits for
long term. For instance, the 'Model scheme on port state measures to combat
illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing', 2005 which was soft law and later
in 2009, 'Agreement on Port State Measure to prevent, deter and eliminate
illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing' was adopted as hard law.
- Better fishing vessels tracking system:
There is no limit on the number of fishing vessels a country can own. Hence,
there are large numbers of registered and non-registered fishing vessels
present in ocean. A better tracking system of vessels is required along with
the internationally recognized unique identification number.
- Ban on trade:
Countries, which are the continuous and worst offender of
illegal fishing should be banned from trade of fisheries. For instance, European
Union issued yellow card to Taiwan over continuous IUU fishing. EU lifted this
yellow card in 2019, acknowledging the progress and major upgrade of its
fisheries legal and administrative system.
- Recovery Plan:
Scientist have laid down nine key components to form the basis
of a recovery plan: salt marshes, mangroves, seagrasses, coral reefs, kelp,
oyster reefs, fisheries, megafauna, and the deep sea. If we get this plan
correctly, we could abundance of marine life recovery by 2050. Salt marshes and
sea grasses can lock away carbon in the atmosphere, for example, while mangroves
have proven to be effective barriers against floods and waves. However, the
process will require massive effort in terms of finances and international
IUU fishing is a serious challenge that threatens both fisheries resources as
well as livelihood of fisherman. Due to its negative consequences, many
international strategies and agreement have been adopted and implemented. IUU
fishing poses a direct threat to food security and socioeconomic stability in
many parts of the world.
Developing countries that depend on fisheries for food
security and export income are most at risk from IUU fishing. Huge economic and
environmental loss incurs due to IUU fishing. Better tracking system, true
information sources, combined efforts of state and improved policies and laws
can help in eliminating IUU fishing and recovering marine life.
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