Ending Illegal Fishing Project

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Working to ensure a sustainable future for our oceans by combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing around the world.

Illegal fishing is a major threat to the sustainability of the world’s fisheries. Some estimates are that illegal and unreported fishing accounts for up to $23.5 billion worth of fish annually worldwide, and up to 20 percent of all of the wild marine fish caught globally. In some parts of the world, the situation is even more dire. For example, fisheries scientists estimate that illegal fishing accounts for up to 40 percent of fish caught in West Africa.

Pressure on the world’s fish stocks is at an all-time high. Fishing fleets utilize modern technology and massive vessels to fish in places that until recently were out of reach because they were too deep, remote, or dangerous to exploit.

How mandatory IMO numbers will help end illegal fishing.

Fleets now pursue and catch fish in virtually every part of the world’s ocean. Massive processing vessels—floating factories that process, freeze, and transport fish in huge quantities—allow fishing vessels to offload catch at sea and continue fishing with alarmingly little downtime. The result is what some call “the last buffalo hunt”—too many fishing vessels chasing a dwindling number of fish that have nowhere to hide.

Most industrial fishing operations act within the law, but some take to the seas fully intending to steal fish. They do this in various ways, including failing to report catch, using illegal fishing gear, fishing without licenses, and even painting new names on their vessels while at sea to avoid detection by authorities. And they do it wherever they think they can get away with it, both within the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of coastal states and on the high seas. In many cases, the theft is made easy by patchwork regulation of fishing areas and weak enforcement at sea and in ports.

The Port State Measures Agreement: A major weapon in the fight against illegal fishing.

Our Work

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  • How Interpol’s Project Scale Is Changing the Game in Illegal Fishing

    With over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface covered by water, only a small fraction of which is regulated by governments, it is no surprise that the high seas are growing more lawless each year. One of the most widespread threats is illegal fishing and its associated crimes. Each year, up to $23.5 billion worth of seafood is stolen from the seas through illegal, unreported, and unregulated... Read More

  • Seafood Industry Should Encourage Safety of Fishing Crews

    Seafood is the most valuable traded commodity in the world, registering nearly US$150 billion in global commerce annually. Unfortunately, there’s a dark side to the trade: illegal and unreported fishing, which accounts for up to $23.5 billion worth of seafood per year. Read More

  • Global Transshipment

    Transshipment, the transfer of fish or other marine wildlife between a fishing vessel and a carrier vessel at sea or in port, is an important part of the global commercial fishing industry. Valuable tuna species, mackerel, and crabs are among the freshly caught seafood transshipped each day in order to shorten the time it takes to get the fish from the sea to the store.  Read More

How the Infamous Kunlun Fishing Ship Met Its Demise

Pew helped Interpol create a network for sharing information among nations fighting illegal fishing—and halted a ship’s infamous career. Read more in the most recent issue of Trust magazine.

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Meet the Team

Learn about Pew's staff working to combat illegal fishing.

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Media Contact

Kimberly Vosburgh



How Innovation Can Fight Environmental Crime 

What's the key to combating ivory trade, illegal fishing, and other environmental crimes? Interpol's David Higgins says global monitoring and high-tech tools can help, in Trend magazine. 

Read essay