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The Cost of Illegal Fishing in the EU

EU - According to research released today by the Pew Environment Group, more than 27,000 new jobs could be created in the European Union (EU) through the elimination of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing.

The Pew Environment Group commissioned eftec (an environmental economics consultancy) to calculate the costs of IUU fishing and the corresponding gains of stopping the practice.

“This research clearly shows that the current levels of IUU fishing in EU Member States has significant economic, social and environmental costs which limit the potential of the fishing sector,” said Markus Knigge, Research Director, Pew European Marine Programme. “Member States could realise this potential, but only if they counter IUU fishing through enforcing existing measures and by supporting the swift introduction of stringent controls and enforcement.”

IUU fishing takes many forms, including fishing without a license, misreporting of catches, fishing in closed areas or with illegal gear, and taking undersized fish. The eftec research estimates the cost of these practices in selected fish groups across five large marine ecosystems: €10 billion of lost catches by 2020; €8 billion of lost stock value in 2020; and 27,000 lost jobs in the fishing and processing industries. The research includes selected costs and key stocks where clear evidence of IUU fishing exists. As a result, the true costs of IUU fishing are likely to be considerably higher than these estimates.

To eliminate these costs, the Pew Environment Group called on the European Institutions and Member States to strengthen the EU control and enforcement regime by introducing:

  • Meaningful sanctions for non-compliance;
  • Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) on all fishing vessels regardless of their length;
  • Independent observers and/or cameras onboard for specific fisheries with a consistent record of infringements, such as bluefin tuna;
  • Central computerised repositories for all information relating to fisheries offences and their perpetrators; and
  • Suspension of Community aid to the fisheries sector, including the granting of fishing rights under Fisheries Partnership Agreements, if a Member State fails to respect its control obligations.

“The principal finding from the research is that there are two possible futures for EU fishing,” said Knigge. “If IUU fishing continues, fish stocks will continue to decline and not recover from the current depleted levels. However, if IUU fishing is stopped with sound management measures, fisheries could be restored to viable levels within a short period of time for most commercial species.”