Fighting fish piracy

Fish piracy, or illegal fishing activity, depletes global fish stocks and undermines efforts to ensure continued, renewable stocks for the future. It also damages the economic and social welfare of those involved in legal fishing, and reduces incentives to play by the rules. But despite national and international efforts, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing continues to thrive worldwide.

Available information suggests that fish piracy on the high seas is widespread, although most attention is mainly concentrated on a few high-value species such as Patagonian toothfish and tuna. Estimates of the total size of IUU catch and its impact on the environment vary widely, but the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that for some important fishing areas, IUU activity accounts for up to 30% of total catches and that for some species, IUU catches could be up to three times the permitted amount.

Whatever the size of the catches, illegal fishing threatens the sustainability of world fish stocks and the fish pirates enjoy an unfair economic advantage over those fishing legally. In recent years, fish piracy has moved to the forefront of the international fisheries policy agenda and governments around the world have stepped up efforts to combat it. But the bottom line is that IUU fishing remains a profitable undertaking, despite the introduction of a number of preventive actions at the international level and as long as that remains the case, the fish pirates will continue to operate.

Although lots of different approaches have been tried, at heart illegal fishing is an economic issue. Therefore, this Policy Brief looks at what can be done to make IUU fishing less profitable and thus less attractive to the fishing pirates.

Read the full Policy Brief by clicking below.

©OECD Observer February 2006

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