A worker stacks boxes full of fresh fish on a port.
In Civitavecchia, Italy, the Coast Guard monitors all fishing vessels and investigates instances of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, in accordance with Italian laws and EU regulations.
Photo:FAO/Cristiano Minichiello

The toll of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Fisheries provide a vital source of food, employment, recreation, trade and economic well-being for people throughout the world. In a world of growing population and persistent hunger, fish has emerged as an important commodity for the achievement of food security. However, efforts by the international community to ensure the sustainability of fisheries are being seriously compromised by illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities are responsible for the loss of 11–26 million tonnes of fish each year, which is estimated to have an economic value of US$10–23 billion. To curtail this impact, Target 4 of Goal 14 of the Sustainable Development Agenda adopted in 2015 by the UN General Assembly, specifically urges the international community to “effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices” by 2020.

Meeting this ambitious target requires strong awareness-raising efforts to draw the attention of the general public to the negative impacts of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities, an activity in which FAO has been actively engaged.

To promote long-term conservation and sustainable use of fisheries resources the 1995 FAO Conference adopted the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The Code is voluntary and sets out principles and international standards of behavior for responsible practices with a view to ensuring the effective conservation, management and development of living aquatic resources, with due respect for the ecosystem and biodiversity.

In 2009 the FAO Conference adopted the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. The Agreement is binding and stipulates minimum port State measures to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. It entered into force on 5 June 2016.

 

Background

In 2015, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean of the FAO proposed that an initiative be launched to declare an International Day for the Fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Following extensive consultations, a proposal was submitted to the attention of the thirty-second session of FAO Committee on Fisheries.

The Committee on Fisheries endorsed the proposal for the declaration of 5 June as the International Day for the Fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. The date reflects the day when the Port State Measures Agreement officially entered into force as an international treaty. The entry into force of this agreement marks an historical event, as it is the first international legally-binding instrument specifically devoted to the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The proposed draft resolution was submitted to the 40th Session of the FAO Conference (July 2017) for approval. In December 2017 the UN General Assembly in its annual resolution on sustainable fisheries proclaimed 5 June as the "International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing." In the same resolution the UN also declared 2022 as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture, which will help focus attention on the small-scale fishermen and women who comprise 90 percent of the world's fisheries work force.

Sustainable fishing starts with us

A man shows a bucket full of tuna

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a broad term that captures a wide variety of fishing activity. IUU fishing is found in all types and dimensions of fisheries; it occurs both on the high seas and in areas within national jurisdiction. It concerns all aspects and stages of the capture and utilisation of fish, and it may sometimes be associated with organized crime. IUU fishing undermines national and regional efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks and, as a consequence, inhibits progress towards achieving the goals of long-term sustainability and responsibility. 

A group of men fishing with canes while suspended from poles on the beach.

To ensure a food secure future for all, the fisheries and aquaculture sector is key. Global fish production is estimated to have reached about 179 million tonnes in 2018. 156 million tonnes ended up our plates. The world’s appetite for fish and fish products shows no sign of slowing. The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020 demonstrates the significant and growing role of fisheries and aquaculture in providing food, nutrition and employment. The fisheries and aquaculture sector significantly expanded in the past decades and total production.

A crowd of women sitting and laughing

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.