Fisheries Transparency

Attempts to sustainably manage and regulate fisheries are undermined by Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) or pirate fishing. 

IUU fishing depletes fish stocks, destroys marine ecosystems, puts legitimate fishers at an unfair disadvantage and jeopardises the livelihoods and food security of some of the world’s poorest people.

Around US $10-23.5bn of fisheries revenue, equivalent to 11-26 million tonnes of fish, is lost annually to IUU fishing. In Africa alone, over US $1bn is lost every year to pirate fishing.

Governments and industry alike are aware of the devastating impacts of pirate fishing. However, efforts to remove IUU fish from markets and supply chains are frustrated by a lack of transparency in global marine fisheries. Vessels can be easily re-named and re-flagged, allowing unscrupulous operators to target states with low enforcement. Licensing of fishing vessels is often undertaken through complex multinational business relationships that mask the real beneficiaries in the countries whose resources are being used.

It can be difficult, even impossible, for consumers to determine the provenance of the fish they buy. There is also evidence that fish caught illegally is fed to farmed shrimp and fish, which are then sold to industrialised countries.

EJF’s work in West Africa and internationally has highlighted this lack of transparency and led us to advocate a number of key actions to help address current problems. These actions will need the involvement of stakeholder groups including governments, industry, civil society and international organisations. 

They are: 

  1. A comprehensive and binding Global Record of fishing vessels that will assign each industrial fishing vessel a unique identification number;
  2. An end to the use of Flags of Convenience (FoC), as well as binding standards for legitimate flag state performance;
  3. Full implementation of the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA);
  4. Information-sharing and transboundary cooperation on fisheries management, including the development of a regional blacklist;
  5. Community-based and independent fisheries monitoring, surveillance and reporting initiatives;
  6. "Net to plate" traceability for industrially-caught marine fisheries products;
  7. Strong, transparent enforcement by coastal states of national and international fisheries law;
  8. A Global Fisheries Transparency Initiative encapsulating key principles upon which information-sharing and transparency can be enhanced between a range of stakeholders. Key to this is transparency in the procurement and payment of fisheries licences.

EJF's Oceans Campaign is supported by