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Maritime Forum

Map of the Week – Illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries

The map of the week shows the fishing intensity in European waters derived from Automatic Identification System (AIS) messages, an emerging technology that has the potential to improve monitoring and combat IUU fishing practices.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices account for an estimated €10 billion in revenue globally, making up 19% of the reported value of catches[1]. Fishing is illegal if it occurs without authorisation or is against national laws, international obligations or conservation and management measures taken by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). Unreported fishing occurs when catches are not reported or reporting does not follow (inter)national or RFMO regulations. Unregulated fishing is practiced by fishing vessels that do not have a nationality or that threaten remaining fish stocks. IUU fishing is one of the greatest threats to our ocean and the people that depend on it. It depletes natural fish stocks, destroys marine habitats and biodiversity, puts honest fishers at an unfair disadvantage, and weakens coastal communities, particularly in developing countries[1].

For the last 10 years, EU regulation has been in place to prevent and deter IUU fishing practices. It aims to establish community control systems to ensure the Common Fisheries Policy rules are followed, to only allowing import and export of validated legal fisheries products, to keep an IUU vessel list and penalize EU operators that engage in IUU fishing anywhere in the world and to take steps against states that turn a blind eye to illegal fishing activities[1]. Join today’s (11/12/2020) celebration for the 10th Anniversary of IUU regulation here.

For these efforts to succeed, monitoring of fishing activities and products is key. Several new technologies have the potential to improve the monitoring and combat IUU fishing practices. In May 2019, the CATCH IT system was launched to digitalise the EU catch certification that validates fisheries products that are legal. Another promising technology to improve fisheries monitoring is the use of satellites to gather the position of vessels from the Automatic Identification System (AIS) messages they send out and apply algorithms to detect if these ships are engaged in fishing activities. The map of the week shows the fishing intensity in European waters derived using this technology. The map was created from over 150 million AIS messages sent from EU vessels engaged in fishing activity between September 2014 and September 2015.

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The data in this map were provided by the Joint Research Center (JRC).