Annual European Coast Guard Event 2021 : Use of digital age technologies in Coast Guard functions. commission report illegal fishing

The European Commission has published its report into the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

Fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing: new report on 2020-2023 achievements

The European Union has released a comprehensive report outlining its achievements in combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing from 2020 to 2023.

Led by Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius, the report underscores the EU’s commitment to protecting its market and consumers against imported products obtained through IUU fishing.

Commentating on the report, Commissioner Sinkevičius said:

“CATCH will contribute to a better protection of the EU market and its consumers against imported products obtained from IUU fishing. This IT system has a potential to become a reference point as a digital environment for catch documentation schemes and international trade flows of fishery products thanks to its web-based approach and considerable interoperability opportunities.”

A key accomplishment highlighted in the report is the adoption of the amended IUU Regulation as part of the revision of the EU fisheries control system. This revision introduced the IT system known as CATCH, designed to support the implementation of the EU IUU catch certification scheme for imported fishery products. Scheduled for use by EU importers and Member States’ authorities from 2026, CATCH aims to enhance traceability and facilitate IUU controls of fishery products destined for the EU market.

The report also emphasizes the EU’s collaboration at the international level, including bilateral IUU dialogues with non-EU countries, participation in IUU working groups, and engagement within regional and multilateral frameworks. The EU has played a pivotal role in promoting anti-IUU fishing measures within Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) and advocating for the ratification and effective implementation of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Port States Measures Agreement.

Since the application of the IUU Regulation in 2010, the EU has been recognized globally as a leader in the fight against IUU fishing. With a ‘zero tolerance’ approach embedded in its common fisheries policy and updated International Ocean Governance agenda, the EU remains committed to Goal 14 of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which focuses on the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas, and marine resources.

The report details the implementation of the IUU Regulation’s two pillars: the catch certification scheme and bilateral cooperation with non-EU countries. It highlights the mandatory use of digital tools like CATCH, which aims to improve the effectiveness of the EU catch certification scheme and enhance import controls.

Furthermore, the report addresses challenges faced both within and outside the EU. Within the EU, efforts are underway to ensure effective implementation of the amended IUU Regulation, including training Member State authorities and finalizing user handbooks. Outside the EU, challenges include garnering political support in partner countries to align their national rules with international obligations and reaching consensus on anti-IUU measures within RFMOs.

The conclusion of the report identified several key areas:

  • The IUU Regulation has continued to provide a comprehensive and effective framework for combating IUU fishing within the EU. It achieves this by preventing fishery products originating from IUU fishing from entering the EU market and by boosting efforts to fight IUU fishing worldwide through the IUU bilateral dialogue mechanism and within multilateral forums.
  • The carding system under the IUU Regulation has become an internationally recognised tool for progressing the fight against IUU fishing and attracting more political attention to this issue around the world.
  • The time has now come to digitaise the catch certification scheme and exploit its potential to prevent fishery products stemming from IUU fishing entering the EU market. CATCH can become a reference point as a digital environment for catch documentation schemes and international trade flows of fishery products due to its web-based approach and considerable interoperability potential.
  • To deliver on our commitments under the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 and truly operate a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to IUU fishing, it is in the EU’s interest to promote the catch certification scheme, the carding system and the systematic cross-listing of IUU vessels between RFMOs as strong tools in the fight against IUU fishing. Alongside this, efforts are also required to close governance gaps at national and regional levels and strengthen the capacity of non-EU countries to fight IUU fishing.


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