Community action plan to eradicate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

The control of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing helps to ensure the sustainability of fisheries worldwide. To act efficiently, new measures or initiatives to be undertaken under Community rules, in the context of regional fisheries organisations, or by international organisations need to be identified. The Commission believes that the introduction of effective arrangements for monitoring fishing activities is a key element in the success of a sustainable policy for the conservation and management of fish stocks.


Commission communication of 28 May 2002. Action plan to eradicate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing [COM(2002) 180 - Not published in the Official Journal].


To control illegal fishing, the Commission is proposing to implement measures at Community and international level and in the context of regional fisheries organisations:

Action 1: State control over nationals

The aim is to discourage Community Member States' nationals from flagging their fishing vessels under the jurisdiction of a State which is failing to fulfil its flag State responsibilities and from committing infringements.

Action 2: Defining procedures for the implementation of arrangements approved at international level relating to the sustainability of fish stocks

This measure gives binding effect to various instruments approved at international level for the (responsible and/or) sustainable management of fish stocks, using for that purpose certain trade policy instruments.

Action 3: Control of activities associated with IUU fishing

The purpose is to ensure that importers, transshippers, buyers, consumers, equipment suppliers, banks, insurers and other service-providers do not maintain business relations with vessels identified as engaging in IUU fishing.

Action 4: Alerting the fishing industry, consumers and the general public to the need to control IUU fishing

This action is directed at the whole of the fishing industry together with consumers and the public general, with a view to making them aware of the detrimental effects of IUU fishing on the conservation and responsible management of stocks and the sustainability of fisheries worldwide, and on the efforts of the European Union, both internally and internationally, to root out this scourge.

Action 5: Development of framework plans for control and inspection within each regional fisheries organisation

Through this action, each regional fisheries organisation may adopt a framework plan for control and inspection, at sea and/or in port, and, where appropriate, an observer plan tailored to the fishing characteristics of each one.

Action 6: Regulation of certain fishing activities on the high seas

In this case, the regional fisheries organisations may adopt conservation and management measures, for fishing activities (e.g. a ban on the use of driftnets), or for catches of species (e.g. deep-water species) which have not been regulated at international level up to now.

Action 7: Identification and monitoring of IUU vessels

The purpose of this action is to help regional fisheries organisations to identify vessels engaging in IUU activities in accordance with transparent and non-discriminatory procedures and criteria in order to impose sanctions on those activities and, secondly, to allow action to be taken against flag states to prevent those activities.

Action 8: Promoting uniform action plans to curb illegal fishing

The objective here is to introduce in a uniform and transparent way action plans to curb illegal fishing in the regional fisheries organisations, in particular for species targeted by IUU fishing activities.

Action 9: Identifying and quantifying illegal catches

This action aims at quantifying through the regional fisheries organisations the volumes taken by IUU vessels in order to assess the impact of these activities in the context of stock evaluation.

Action 10: Notification and Documentation

Certification/documentation systems need to be set up, on the basis of common criteria, to support the effective implementation of the action plan without excessive costs to operators.

Action 11: Improvement of information concerning fishing vessels

This measure helps to improve exchanges of information about fishing vessels concerning their right to fish in order to identify as early as possible vessels that have been struck off the register or whose authorisation to fish has been cancelled.

Action 12: Improving international cooperation.

The Commission calls on Member States to strengthen international cooperation on monitoring, control and surveillance by improving exchanges of information between authorities responsible for implementing measures to conserve and manage fish stocks.

Action 13: Definition of a substantive link between a State and a vessel

The definition of legal criteria authorising a vessel to fly the flag of a State is based on the existence of a substantive link between that State and the fishing vessel concerned, as required under Article 91 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Action 14: Definition of rights and responsibilities of port states

This concerns the rights and responsibilities of port States regarding access for fishing vessels to port facilities in order to carry on business, transit or first marketing operations, involving fishery products coming directly from fishing grounds.

Action 15: Assistance for developing countries to control unlawful fishing

The Commission intends to help developing countries comply in full with the undertakings they are going to give under the international plan of action to prevent unlawful fishing.


The control of illegal fishing is being undertaken at international level. The Committee on Fisheries (COFI) of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has launched an international action plan prepared within the framework of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. This action plan was endorsed by the FAO Council on 23 June 2001. The European Community (EC) has played an active role in drawing up this international action plan to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Within the framework of the common fisheries policy (CFP), the EC will adopt the necessary measures to implement the action plan agreed at international level.


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 17 October 2007 on a new strategy for the Community to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing [COM(2007) 601 - Not published in the Official Journal]. The European Union is proposing a new global strategy to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Community and international waters.

Last updated: 19.03.2008