Think Piece

Trade-Related Measures to Address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing

June 2015

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major problem with worldwide social, environmental, and economic impacts. Commonly linked to fish piracy or seafood fraud, IUU fishing describes fishing that violates international, regional, or domestic fisheries management, conservation, or reporting laws. As well as being a major contributor to the global ecological crisis of overfishing and biodiversity depletion, IUU fishing harms legitimate fishing activities and livelihoods, jeopardises food security, consolidates transnational crime, distorts markets, and undermines ongoing efforts to implement sustainable fisheries policies. There are similarities between IUU fishing and the illegal logging that deprives developing countries of valuable exports and taxes, impacts the livelihood of indigenous peoples and forest-dwelling communities, and causes massive deforestation and biodiversity depletion. Effective regulatory oversight and implementation of these activities is essential to avoid major adverse implications for present and future livelihoods that extend beyond fisheries (or forestry) to ecological balance itself. In order to solve these problems, measures that impose stringent import documentation, certification, or traceability requirements, regulate transhipment, or prohibit the trade in relevant products are very important. As with every major regulatory policy, such measures are likely to affect the existing conditions of trade between countries, many of whom are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). This think-piece provides a comparative legal analysis of such measures and initiatives, and concludes with recommendations for governments, international organisations, private actors, and the global community.

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