IUU stands for Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated fishing and according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN it is said to account for anywhere between 12–28% of global seafood landings at an estimated cost of USD$10–$23 billion. Often referred to as pirate fishing, the opposite of IUU is Legal, Reported and Regulated — LRR. As it is broadly understood, Illegal refers to foreign fishing vessels conducting fishing in another nation’s waters without permission, or in a way that contravenes their access agreement.
Unreported fishing is when catches have not been reported or misreported, and unregulated fishing is fishing conducted in areas, or for a species, where there are no management measures, or in international waters but in contravention to the management measures of a Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO).
However if it is deliberately misreported is it also illegal? Obviously yes but with over 12,000 species of seafood it may not be deliberate all the time. If in international waters not under an RFMO, is it a free for all? Sadly, with Flag of Convenience fishing, it often is.
To highlight the complexity, the FAO in a general overview of IUU fishing state that:
To a greater of lesser extent, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) fishing is found in all capture fisheries, irrespective of their location, species targeted, fishing gear employed or intensity of exploitation. In short, in its universality IUU fishing occurs in both small-scale and industrial fisheries, in marine and inland fisheries, as well as in zones of national jurisdiction and on the high seas.
They then go on to say:
IUU fishing is not a new phenomenon. It has been a source of concern for resource custodians since the earliest times when fishing communities first started to implement measures to conserve fish stocks.
So IUU is contextual, dynamic, and nearly as old as fishing itself. Indeed just determining what constitutes a small scale fishery has been described as virtually impossible because of its diversity. And all this is important — whether you are trying to determine who qualifies for WTO subsidies or whether the seafood entering your country, your company, your restaurant is legal or not?
If having a license or a permit to fish equals legal then most fishers in the world would probably be considered illegal (the smallest of small scale fishers are artisanal but they are the most in number). For them it is simply their right to fish the sea. To call these people pirates would not be fair. Sadly, however, this is how an increasing number of them are ending up.
The true pirates though aren’t in small boats, they have been and are in large scale industrial fishing boats that have been trawling the coastlines off places like East and West Africa, cleaning the seas of fish, dumping waste, and dumping their old vessels. Corrupt officials have been paid off to let these trawlers from Spain, China, Korea etc. loose to pillage, and leave the local fishermen with no fish for income or food.
At the same time we saw an increase in piracy (in the traditional sense of the word) in places like Senegal, Mauritania, the Gulf of Guinea. So is it a correlation or causation? A correlation is a statistical measure that describes the size and direction of a relationship between two or more variables. In this case, decreasing fish stocks, and increasing piracy. However causation indicates that one event is the result of the occurrence of the other event (i.e. cause and effect). When one large industrial fishing boat can catch and hold up to 3,000 tons, more than a bay of artisanal fishers could probably catch in years, and when all the fish are gone and artisanal fishers are left with only boats and guns, the causation is pretty clear to see.
Thankfully China recently announced that subsidies and permits for illegal fishing vessels and their companies operating in West Africa would be removed. This is a positive step but these vessels could still operate and transfer their catch to licensed vessels if there is not adequate monitoring, compliance, and surveilance.
Chinese companies see subsidies cancelled and permits removed for illegal fishing in West Africa …
The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) (http://english.Agri.gov.cn) is pulling the plug on three Chinese companies…
There is good news here too with intiatives and organizations like Global Fishing Watch and Ocean Mind using satellite technologies to track the movement of these larger vessels. By monitoring their location, speed and directon they can detect if they’re fishing in marine protected areas and whether or not they have met up with other vessels for at-sea transfers.
But what about small scale fishers? How can we help them? Well first we need to identify and verify them, and companies like EverID are incorporting biometric technologies with the blockchain and working in developing nations. We also need to help and reward them for logging their catch so governments can better understand the status of the fish stocks and move toward Rights Based Fisheries Management from traditional fisheries management. Through our mFish and Fishcoin initiatives this is where we at Eachmile Technologies and our partners are focussing our efforts.