Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing

Written by Irina Popescu and Samy Chahri,

The IUU Regulation (1005/2008) is the core of EU’s legal framework for action against global IUU fishing. Its primary objective is to prevent, deter and eliminate the trade of IUU-caught products into the EU. One of its key components is a multiple-step procedure for dealing with non-EU countries considered uncooperative in the fight against IUU fishing.

The European Commission identifies non-EU countries that fail to discharge their duties under international law to take action against IUU fishing, and initiates dialogue with each of them (i.e. with more than 50 countries to date). In most cases, the bilateral discussions result in the countries in question improving the governance of their fisheries.

If the dialogue does not resolve the shortcomings, the Commission notifies the country of the risk of being identified as non-cooperating. This notification is known as ‘pre-identification‘, or a ‘yellow card‘. The Commission proposes tailored measures, which the non-EU country is expected to address by a specified deadline. If the pre-identified country makes progress in line with the proposed measures but more time is needed to conclude the reforms, the yellow card status may be extended.

In cases where the pre-identified country fails to resolve its IUU fishing problems, the Commission identifies it as a non-cooperating country, in what is called the ‘identification‘ step, or the ‘red card‘, and proposes to the Council to place the country on the list of non-cooperating countries, i.e. the ‘listing‘ step. Listing involves trade-restrictive measures – the prohibition of imports of fishery products from the listed country, associated with a prohibition on EU vessels operating in its waters.

Dialogue remains open throughout the procedure. When a pre-identified, identified or listed country makes concrete progress in resolving EU concerns, the Commission lifts the pre-identification status or proposes to the Council to delist the country, i.e. it gives the ‘green card‘.

The map below shows the countries involved in these procedures. The most recent card is indicated on top.

Illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing

Overview of the procedures

A total of 25 countries have been given a yellow card (up to November 2017). Ten of them had their pre-identification lifted after periods varying between 10 and 39 months. For six of the pre-identified countries, the procedure continued with a red card and listing, of which three countries were delisted after 13, 20 and 35 months respectively. Currently nine countries have a yellow card, and three countries have a red card.

The countries involved in the procedures are located in southern and eastern Asia (seven of them), western-central Pacific (six), the Caribbean (six), West Africa (five) and the western Indian Ocean (one).

The figure below provides an overview of the procedures launched by the Commission, and their progress over time.

overview of the procedures launched by the Commission

Read this ‘At a glance’ infographic on ‘Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing‘ in the Think tank pages of the European Parliament.

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