Industry Guidance to Avoid Illegal 'Pirate' Fish Products in UK Supply Chains
In a detailed joint ‘Advisory Note’ launched today, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and WWF-UK inform UK industry, retailers and brands of the risks associated with Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) or ‘pirate’ fishing.
The guide offers expert advice on risk assessment and risk mitigation, and encourages action to prevent IUU fishery products entering UK supply chains, which is costly on a number of levels.
IUU fishing involves methods and practices that violate fisheries laws, regulations or conservation and management measures. Activities can include:
- Fishing in restricted areas or during closed seasons;
- Targeting protected or unregulated fish species;
- Using banned fishing methods and fishing without a licence.
The effects of these activities lead to damage to the oceans and species, as well as global financial estimated to be between US $10 billion and US $23.5 billion each year, representing 11 to 26 million tonnes of fish. There is often also a strong link between IUU fishing activities and human rights abuses on-board fishing vessels.
Eight key recommendations suggest actions for business and industry to provide much needed impetus. BRC, EJF and WWF-UK want to promote greater understanding and transparency to support global initiatives and policy developments that would further reduce risk of IUU products entering the UK. The recommendations include:
- Increased transparency and traceability of fish supplies;
- All large fishing vessels to have a unique identification to enable satellite tracking;
- Improve port controls to prevent influx of ‘pirate’ fish supply;
- EU to centrally coordinate database of fish catches.
As the world’s largest market for imported fish and fishery products, the EU has the potential to change behaviour through commercial incentives and international trade. The EU’s enforcement of the IUU Regulation is unique globally, but it is currently being unevenly implemented by Member States and more needs to be done in the UK, too, to ensure its full success.
"We’re delighted to be working alongside the BRC and WWF-UK to promote the steps needed to eradicate ‘pirate’ fish products from UK supply chains. Knowing where, under what conditions and by which vessel, seafood is caught is a fundamental step towards building legal, sustainable fisheries. It is time for major retailers, brands, importers and suppliers to take determined, decisive action. Companies have the power and the right to demand accountability and require suppliers to provide information on where products come from. We urgently need transparency and traceability in the seafood supply chain, and to secure better governance that ensures the protection of our global seas and oceans. The technology and management instruments now exist to do this and, crucially, they are economically feasible. What is needed now is the full engagement of the corporate sector, alongside government and other key stakeholders. In taking these actions it is valuable to recall that pirate fishing vessels are devastating fish stocks and all too often stealing from some of the poorest people on our planet." - Steve Trent, Executive Director of EJF
"Closing down markets to ‘pirate’ fish is the fastest way to eliminate the indiscriminate destruction IUU fishing wreaks on coastal communities and the marine environment on which they depend. Limiting the market invariably limits profit opportunities, thus taking away the financial incentive that drives IUU fishing. This joint advisory note can empower UK importers, processors and retailers to play an increasingly leading role in bringing this destructive trade to an end." - Tracy Cambridge, Fisheries and Seafood Manager of WWF-UK
Designing and implementing an effective process to ensure due diligence in preventing pirate fish entering their supply chains provides a valuable opportunity for UK retailers and brands to support the global fight against IUU fishing while also reducing potential reputational and legal risks in seafood supply chains.
As well as helping to secure the future viability and health of global fisheries, the recommendations provided by the BRC, EJF and WWF-UK support easier monitoring of working conditions aboard the world’s fishing fleet and help ensure that products created under exploitative conditions are not allowed to enter the EU market.
"We wanted to take a lead on this, working with informed partners EJF and WWF, to make a real difference in tackling the huge problem of illegally caught fish, estimated globally to cost up to $23bn. Our practical guidance will help all retailers and manufacturers ensure this fish does not enter our supply chains. This is a great example of British retailers using our expertise to influence global sourcing for the benefit of all and hope the principles will be adopted by other food companies abroad." - Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium
The European Union IUU Regulation, which came into force in January 2010, is designed to prevent IUU fishery products from entering the EU market. Prior to the Regulation, an estimated €1.1 billion of illegal fish entered the EU each year. The Regulation requires catch certificates for seafood imports and exports and bans the import of fish from states and vessels known to be involved in IUU fishing.
As the largest seafood importer in the world by value, the EU has the potential to change behaviour through commercial incentives and international trade. The EU’s enforcement of the IUU Regulation is unique globally, but it is currently being unevenly implemented and more needs to be done in the UK to ensure its success.
Notes to editors:
- The Advisory Note released today highlights some of the key risks associated with IUU fishing and outlines an approach to prevent IUU fishery products from entering UK supply chains. It offers an overview of a due diligence system – sources of information, risk assessment, audits and alternative sources – as well as key aspects to be considered – the fishery itself, fisheries management, supply chain management and supplier due diligence.
- It is estimated that almost 30% of global fish stocks are overfished, with fully fished stocks accounting for 60% and under–fished stocks 10%. (FAO 2014, FAO State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture Report (SOFIA) 2014).
- New research indicates that 20-25% of the most studied marine species are threatened with extinction – the same as the risk to land animals and plants (University of Sheffield, 2015).
- Global losses due to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing are estimated to be between $10 billion and $23.5 billion each year. This is estimated to represent between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish (MRAG and University of British Columbia 2009, Estimating the Worldwide Extent of Illegal Fishing).
- The EU IUU Regulation, which came into force in 2010, aims to keep illegally caught fish out of the EU market by requiring catch certificates for seafood imports and exports. It also bars the import of fish from states and vessels known to be involved in IUU fishing. The Regulation and the EU’s enforcement of it are unique globally.
- The EU is the largest seafood importer in the world by value, importing 24% of the global total. (DG MARE 2014, The EU Fish Market 2014 edition).
- The value of illegally caught fish imported into the EU was estimated to be in the region of €1.1 billion, prior to the EU IUU Regulation coming into force. (European Commission 2007, European Commission Staff Working Document SEC – 1336).
- The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is the lead trade association for the entire retail industry. www.brc.org.uk
- The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) is a UK-based charity working internationally to protect the environment and defend human rights. EJF believes environmental security is a human right. EJF is a charity registered in England and Wales (1088128).
- WWF is one of the world’s largest independent conservation organisations, with more than five million supporters and a global network active in more than one hundred countries. Through their engagement with the public, businesses and government, they focus on safeguarding the natural world, creating solutions to the most serious environmental issues facing our planet, so that people and nature thrive.