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How The EU Intends To Combat IUU Tuna Fishing From 2010

The European Union (EU) seems to be determined to take drastic measures in combating illegally (IUU) caught tuna and other seafood. During the 10th Brussels Development Briefing which took place on April 29th in Belgium under the theme “Fighting against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing (IUU): Impacts and challenges for ACP countries”, the European Commission (EC) explained what its intentions are.

IUU fishing is now one of the most serious concerns of: 1) The tuna industry; and 2) European Union nations.


Tuna is on top of the list of world’s wild catches in several oceanic areas such as Western and Central Pacific, Eastern Pacific, Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. The EU is the single largest grouping of countries that import such fish resource, fresh and frozen and in value added form like canned tuna.

It’s hard to reach a round number, but according to the Briefing’s speaker’s presentations, IUU practices amount to 10 billion euros a year – representing 19% of the worldwide reported value of catches and over 50% of the catches from Sub Saharan African countries.

The Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG Mare) of the European commission representative, Jean-Pierre Vergine presented not only why the EU should be the group of countries investing heavily in combating IUU practices, but how the Commission is going to do that – starting on January 2010.

According to Mr. Vergine, the EC imports an estimated 1,1 billion euros of IUU products every year: “The EC has a key role to play in the global fishery production and market and must therefore take a key role in the fight against IUU fishing. Measures already adopted at regional and international level are not sufficient enough to fight IUU fishing”.

The EC Regulation, adopted on September of 2008 and taking into force by January 1st 2010, is inspired by FAO’s International Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU. It applies to all fishing vessels under any flag in all maritime waters; and to mostly all processed and unprocessed marine fishery products where there is a connection to the EC such as trade or in case its nationals operate under any flag in all maritime waters.

However, organizations such as the Greenpeace and the private tuna sector, made a point during the event in highlighting the loopholes and impracticalities of the current legislation – such as registering vessels in a country that has no IUU rules, or where the rules are less stringent – for a more efficient implementation of the new regulation.

Mr. Pedro Celso, the managing director of RD Tuna Canners from Papua New Guinea, and also one of the speakers, appeals to “all concerned players especially the business minded ones” to combat IUU fishing in order to preserve the health of tuna stocks worldwide: “Scientific studies have confirmed the seeming decline in the catch of selected species like yellow fin and big eye. There are growing concerns on the possibility of extinction of these two major varieties of tuna in the long run unless immediate corrective measures are undertaken”, he added.

Among the new measures are: catch certification schemes to ensure traceability (for imported and re-imported products), inspections, the creation of an Alert System to share information about IUU vessels; giving support to developing countries in implementing the regulations, and more.

Fishing vessels listed on the EC IUU Vessel List will:

      Not be authorised to fish and be chartered in EC waters
      Only be authorised to enter a EC port if the catches onboard and prohibited fishing gear are confiscated
      Not be supplied with fuel or other services in port, except in cases of force majeure or distress
      Not be authorised to change crew, except in cases of force majeure or distress
      Not be authorised to have its fishery products traded with the EC

“IUU fishing can only be prevented, deterred and eliminated if European States can effectively track down on IUU operators. The Regulation therefore includes a system of effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions, accompanying sanctions and enforcement measures for serious infringements in respect of natural and legal persons”, Mr. Vergine finalizes.

According to the Imperial College London Biology Division, lower and upper estimates of the total current losses to illegal and unreported fishing worldwide are between US$9 billion and US$24 billion annually, representing between 11 and 26 million tons of fish.