IUU Fishing
IUU fishing is behind almost one in every five fish caught.

Share page





One of the most important problems fisheries management faces is illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU fishing). Vessels engaged in IUU fishing activities do not comply with safety measures on board, do not use legal fishing gear, do not follow fisheries management regulations and do not comply with regulations on quotas, fishing areas, closed seasons or prohibited species.


Oceana videographer documenting an illegal driftnetter
operating SE of Alborán island
© Oceana / Juan Carlos Calvin


A Global Issue

One of the principle effects of IUU us that its catches are not recorded in catch registers, which are how fishing stocks are estimated. As a result, the Council Regulation 1005/2008 establishes measures that attempt to reduce IUU fishing in Europe. In addition, the FAO and more than 90 countries have promoted a treaty to fight against IUU fishing. Apart from these, measures are also focused on closing ports to vessels engaged in illegal fishing activities. However, one of the main challenges to reduce illegal fishing activities is the lack of a control and sanctioning system to mitigate the environmental infringements committed by the sector.


What Oceana Does

Oceana works against IUU fishing on three fronts:

  • Satellite and on-the-field monitoring: via Global Fishing Watch (GFW, a real-time platform that tracks global fishing activity) and on our at-sea expeditions and port visits, where we have documented and gathered evidence on illegal fishing activities, vessels engaged in illegal fishing, the use of illegal fishing gear and catches of non-authorized species.

  • Animated composition showing data gathered by GFW by Oceana in the Strait of Sicily

  • Collecting data on ship owners and vessels engaged in IUU and filing formal complaints of the same before national and international authorities and organizations.
  • Lobbying and putting pressure on politicians to put an end to IUU, increase transparency in the sector and promote sustainable fishing practices. This also includes reforming current European regulations for the sustainable management of long-distance fishing fleets.
  • Campaigns directed towards service providers, specifically to marine insurance companies.





In-focus: 1



Swipe Screen to Navigate  
IUU: Marine Insurance
IUU costs the global economy between $10 - $23 billion per year.

Share page




A Key Player

The marine insurance industry can be a key player to combatting IUU fishing. By refusing or canceling insurance to vessels or boats that have been blacklisted for pirate fishing. This essentially cuts a financial lifeline for those involved in IUU fishing, so no false claims can be made.


Oceana's Dr. Dana Miller speaking at the 11th Int. Forum on IUU Fishing
© Oceana / V.V.


The insurance industry also benefits from supporting sustainable marine insurance initiatives like this one by Oceana and the UN Environment’s Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI). By fighting against IUU fishing, they can protect their business from the legal, financial and reputational risks that are associated with pirate fishing.


Reports & Other Documents





IUU: Seafood Fraud
Even though seafood is such a popular food, many people do not know what they are really eating.

Share page





Seafood fraud is a widespread problem across the world. The most common form of seafood fraud is seafood mislabeling, whereby one species is replaced with another cheaper species when sold to the consumer. Even though seafood is such a popular food, many people do not know what they are really eating.


Seafood fraud is harmful to the environment, rips off the consumer and undermines conservation efforts by supporting unsustainable or illegal fishing activities. It can take place anywhere along the supply chain, from the fishermen to the wholesalers, distributors and foodservice. The problem is caused by insufficient enforcement and control of rules on traceability and labelling which enable fraudulent practices on seafood to slip through.


More Information:






In-focus: Seafood Fraud — The Consequences

© Oceana / Jenn Hueting


Seafood fraud can happen at each step of the supply chain – the restaurant, the distributor, or the processing and packaging phase. Along with ripping off consumers, the consequences of seafood fraud include:


  • Directly threatens human health. Swapping one fish species for another that may be riddled with contaminants, toxins or allergens can make people sick.


  • Creates a market for illegal fishing by making it easy to launder illegally caught seafood products through the EU market. This undermines conservation efforts to prevent overfishing and accidental capture of at-risk species and hurts honest fishermen.

  • Mislabeling fish makes it difficult for consumers to make eco-friendly choices. Market-driven conservation efforts depend on the consumer’s ability to make an informed purchase of particular species. This effort becomes nearly impossible when fish are mislabeled.

  • Misleads consumers about the true availability of seafood and the state of the marine environment. Because mislabeling maintains the appearance of a steady supply of popular fish species despite severe overfishing, the general public is unaware that the species is in serious trouble.


Overfishing continues to plague the world’s oceans, with 87% of fish stocks worldwide fully or overexploited. Despite growing concern about where our food comes from, consumers are frequently served the wrong fish – a completely different species than the one they paid for.


IUU: Driftnets
Bycatch from driftnets include cetaceans, sea turtles and other endangered species.

Share page




Driftnets are a type of fishing gear used to catch various pelagic species. During the 80s and the beginning of the 90s, this type of gear became popular due to its effectiveness and easy use. Because this gear is passive, it does not require any type of specialisation. However, driftnets bycatch thousands and thousands of cetaceans and other endangered species.


Watch Video: French driftnetters attack Oceana's Ranger


These nets can be up to 35 meters high and 20 km. long. In Italy, there are two types of driftnets: the spadara, used to catch swordfish, and the ferrettara, used to catch bullet tuna and bonito. In France, driftnets are called thonailles and their lengths range between 2.5 and 10.5 kms.


A driftnet being hauled up.
© Oceana / Juan Carlos Calvin

In 1991, the United Nations General Assembly established an international moratorium prohibiting the use of these nets and the European Union banned them in 1992. According to the information Oceana has, drift nets have in Spain have been substituted by other gear, but hundreds of French, Italian and Moroccan vessels continue to use these nets — often known known as “curtains of death” — while they receive subsidies from European institutions to shift to other gear.


Click here to continue >