Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing accounts for up to 26 million tons of fish each year, threatening the livelihoods of legal fishers by robbing them and their communities of the fish they need to survive. Combating IUU fishing requires comprehensive efforts by all States involved in this commercial activity: coastal, port, market, and flag.
A flag State is the country to which a vessel is registered; it acts as a vessel’s nationality and has exclusive jurisdiction over the ship’s administrative operations. With few exceptions, the sole entity responsible for policing a vessel is its flag State. Although governments have adopted policies to prevent IUU activity and stop illegally caught fish from entering the global seafood market, unscrupulous operators seek to register vessels in States with little oversight and enforcement of laws. Unless flag States meet their international obligations and enforce domestic policies, IUU fishing will continue.