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New Guidance Aims to Keep Illegal Fish Out of UK Supply Chain

Sustainability Economics Politics +4 more

UK - Guidance has been issued to the UK industry on how to ensure that illegal fish is kept out of supply chains. The global annual cost of pirate fishing is estimated to be as much as $23.5 billion.

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In a detailed joint ‘Advisory Note’, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and WWF-UK inform UK industry, retailers and brands of the risks associated with Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) or 'pirate' fishing.

The guide offers expert advice on risk assessment and risk mitigation, and encourages action to prevent IUU fishery products entering UK supply chains, which is costly on a number of levels.

IUU fishing involves methods and practices that violate fisheries laws, regulations or conservation and management measures. Activities can include:

  • Fishing in restricted areas or during closed seasons;
  • Targeting protected or unregulated fish species;
  • Using banned fishing methods and fishing without a licence.

The effects of these activities lead to damage to the oceans and species, as well as global financial estimated to be between $10 billion and $23.5 billion each year, representing 11 to 26 million tonnes of fish. There is often also a strong link between IUU fishing activities and human rights abuses on-board fishing vessels.

Eight key recommendations suggest actions for business and industry to provide much needed impetus. BRC, EJF and WWF-UK want to promote greater understanding and transparency to support global initiatives and policy developments that would further reduce risk of IUU products entering the UK. The recommendations include:

  • Increased transparency and traceability of fish supplies;
  • All large fishing vessels to have a unique identification to enable satellite tracking;
  • Improve port controls to prevent influx of ‘pirate’ fish supply;
  • EU to centrally coordinate database of fish catches.

As the world’s largest market for imported fish and fishery products, the EU has the potential to change behaviour through commercial incentives and international trade. The EU’s enforcement of the IUU Regulation is unique globally, but it is currently being unevenly implemented by Member States and more needs to be done in the UK, too, to ensure its full success.

Steve Trent, Executive Director of EJF, said: “We’re delighted to be working alongside the BRC and WWF-UK to promote the steps needed to eradicate ‘pirate’ fish products from UK supply chains. Knowing where, under what conditions and by which vessel, seafood is caught is a fundamental step towards building legal, sustainable fisheries. It is time for major retailers, brands, importers and suppliers to take determined, decisive action. Companies have the power and the right to demand accountability and require suppliers to provide information on where products come from.”

“We urgently need transparency and traceability in the seafood supply chain, and to secure better governance that ensures the protection of our global seas and oceans. The technology and management instruments now exist to do this and, crucially, they are economically feasible. What is needed now is the full engagement of the corporate sector, alongside government and other key stakeholders. In taking these actions it is valuable to recall that pirate fishing vessels are devastating fish stocks and all too often stealing from some of the poorest people on our planet.”

Tracy Cambridge, Fisheries and Seafood Manager of WWF-UK, said: "Closing down markets to ‘pirate’ fish is the fastest way to eliminate the indiscriminate destruction IUU fishing wreaks on coastal communities and the marine environment on which they depend. Limiting the market invariably limits profit opportunities, thus taking away the financial incentive that drives IUU fishing.”

“This joint advisory note can empower UK importers, processors and retailers to play an increasingly leading role in bringing this destructive trade to an end."

Designing and implementing an effective process to ensure due diligence in preventing pirate fish entering their supply chains provides a valuable opportunity for UK retailers and brands to support the global fight against IUU fishing while also reducing potential reputational and legal risks in seafood supply chains.

As well as helping to secure the future viability and health of global fisheries, the recommendations provided by the BRC, EJF and WWF-UK support easier monitoring of working conditions aboard the world’s fishing fleet and help ensure that products created under exploitative conditions are not allowed to enter the EU market.

Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said:“We wanted to take a lead on this, working with informed partners EJF and WWF, to make a real difference in tackling the huge problem of illegally caught fish, estimated globally to cost up to $23 billion. Our practical guidance will help all retailers and manufacturers ensure this fish does not enter our supply chains. This is a great example of British retailers using our expertise to influence global sourcing for the benefit of all and hope the principles will be adopted by other food companies abroad.“

The European Union IUU Regulation, which came into force in January 2010, is designed to prevent IUU fishery products from entering the EU market. Prior to the Regulation, an estimated €1.1 billion of illegal fish entered the EU each year.

The Regulation requires catch certificates for seafood imports and exports and bans the import of fish from states and vessels known to be involved in IUU fishing.

As the largest seafood importer in the world by value, the EU has the potential to change behaviour through commercial incentives and international trade. The EU’s enforcement of the IUU Regulation is unique globally, but it is currently being unevenly implemented and more needs to be done in the UK to ensure its success.