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.
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.
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Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing jeopardizes the health and sustainability of the world’s fisheries, undermines the livelihoods of law-abiding fishers, and is widely associated with crimes such as piracy, human trafficking, and arms and narcotics smuggling. Read More
When the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) entered into force in 2016, the United Nations hailed it as the beginning of a new era in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Over 25 governments had ratified or otherwise signed on to the treaty, surpassing the threshold needed to bring it into force. That number has more than doubled in the years since. But can a... Read More
Western Indian Ocean coastal nations continue to struggle to control illicit maritime activity, including illegal fishing, which accounts for up to 1 in 4 fish caught in the region. Authorities often lack adequate ways to collect information on suspected illegal activity or the capability to take enforcement actions when they detect it. 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.
Meet the Team
Learn about Pew's staff working to combat illegal fishing.
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.