Why more incentives for fishing industry in Thailand won’t help in controlling IUU Fishing

Thai Government intends to spend 215 million baht (approx. 5.9 million) in a new buyback scheme to buy fishing boats from vessel owners. In open access fisheries where there is hardly any credible policy on building of new boats and with more than 30,000 unregulated fishing boats operating from Thai shores the Government decision is truly a wastage of public funds.

Purchase value is pegged at half the median value for licensed fishing boats and 25% of market value for unlicensed fishing boats.

The purchased vessels would be sunk leading to wastage of tax payers money. Thailand could learn a lesson or two from Indonesian Government which has sunk unlicensed vessels to send a strong signal to vessel owners and fishing companies.

Thai Government has deliberately delayed implementation of several measures allowing vessels to register several months after promulgating laws banning their very activities. Recently CCCI (Command Center for Combating Illegal Fishing) delayed implementation of fishing net mesh sizes up to April 1, showing that it is not serous about implementing serious changes to its fishing policy. Thai fishing companies and vessel owners exercise political leverage and recent changes brought in by the Military Government do not suggest any serous change in the management of Thai fishing fleet perhaps the biggest in South Asia.

Problems plaguing Thai fishing fleet

  • Actual size of the fishing fleet remains unknown (estimated at more than 100,000 fishing vessels while official figures put them around 57,000).
  • Vessel registration procedures are lax.
  • Fishing industry is heavily subsidized leading to low operating costs and high profits for vessel owners who often build new boats with such profits.
  • Fishing crew are mostly of foreign origin and often trafficked without pay from Myanmar, Cambodia and other neighbouring countries (U.S. State Department downgraded Thailand to the lowest tier on its Trafficking in Persons Report 2014).
  • Lack of enforcement and credible penalties for apprehended Thai fishing vessels. Most of penalties for illegal fishing vessels are low and never made public. Vessel seizures are never reported for even the biggest offenders.


Who is to blame for excess fisheries quotas in EU member states? Politicians or the EU Council

The Common Fisheries Policy is seen as the main regulatory tool for sustainable management of fish stocks within EU Member States. Commercial fish stocks are managed using TACs within fishing areas. The TACs are mean to provide fair access and sustainable long-term exploitation of fish stocks within EU maritime limits. TACs are set for commercial fish stocks based on stock status and scientific recommendations of ICES and STCEF. TACs are split between EU member countries in the form of national quotas. When a quota for specific species is completed, the EU member state has to close that fishery. TACs are set every year for most fish stocks and every two years for deep sea stocks.

A new study on influence of EU member states on setting of fishing quotas in EU Member States shows that even within a progressive bloc of European countries Total Allowable Catches (TAC) are often set higher than scientific recommendations of ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea). Carpenter et al., (2015) compared the TACs set by EU Member States with catch limits recommended by ICES.

“Catch allocations are based on politics rather than science” O’Leary et al., (2011)

Results of the Carpenter et al., (2015) study suggest that:

  1. European Council set TACs above ICES scientific advice by an average of 20% per year, with around 7 out of every 10 TACs exceeding ICES Scientific Advice.
  2. Greater transparency is required to determine what takes place during the closed-door negotiations between EU and its Member States.
  3. EU Member States are overfishing in EU waters by setting quotas above scientific advice.
  4. Only reported catches are used for the scientific analysis and if discards and illegal catches are taken into account, catches could be far higher.
  5. Each EU Member State seeks short-term political gain through higher quotas for its fishing fleets every year rather than transiting to healthy stocks by following scientific advice.

Excess TAC in tonnes by EU Memeber States (2001-2015)

TAC vs ICES advice by species for top 15 species

Read the full report here.

Carpenter, G., Kleinjans, R., Villasante, S., & O’Leary, B.C. (2016) Landing the blame: The influence of EU Member States on quota setting. Marine Policy, 64, 9-15.

EU Common Fisheries Policy

O’Leary, B., Smart, J., Neale, F., Hawkins, J., Newman, S., Milman, S. & , Roberts, C. (2011, 12). Fisheries mismanagement. Mar Pollut Bull 62 (12), 2642–8.

European Fisheries Control Agency to become part of new European Border and Coast Guard Agency

(15/12/2015) The European Commission proposed an ambitious package of measures to establish a European Border and Coast Guard and guarantee effective border control both on land and at sea.

The proposed European Border and Coast Guard will be composed of a newly created European Border and Coast Guard Agency and the national authorities and coastguards responsible for border management.

The legislative package adopted today seeks to enhance and reinforce cooperation in order to support national authorities carrying out coastguard functions. The cooperation will include sharing information on ships and movements, providing surveillance and communication services including space-based infrastructures, sensors and drones, as well as capacity building and sharing, which also includes joint risk assessment and operations at sea.

Within this framework, the European Fisheries Control Agency will contribute substantially to improving border control: by sharing information, assets and intelligence with the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency and with the European Maritime Safety Agency. The European Fisheries Control Agency has particular know-how and experience in the global fight against illegal fishing, which is often related to other criminal activities such as drug trafficking or smuggling of people and of weapons or other goods.

Coastguard authorities carry out operational activities at sea, including border control, but also activities regarding maritime transport, fisheries control, customs, and marine pollution. Today’s legislative package therefore enhances the EU’s response capacity at sea not only in relation to border management, but also to threats and risks of other major crisis situations at sea.

About EFCA

The European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) is a European Union body established in 2005 to organise operational coordination of fisheries control and inspection activities by the Member States and to assist them to cooperate so as to comply with the rules of the Common EU Fisheries Policy in order to ensure its effective and uniform application. EFCA has its official seat in Vigo, Spain.

To view the complete story see here

Belize ends open access to marine fisheries to prevent overfishing

Belize is preparing to roll out the innovative “Managed Access Program” which would soon end open access fishing by more than 3000 licensed commercial fishermen. A soft roll-out of the program is expected in January 2016 for the test run with full run-out expected by June 2016. The Fisheries Department would use the first 6 months for public education and gathering feedback on implementation. The Managed Access Program is likely to decrease illegal fishing without compromising the right to fish in traditional fishing grounds.


The programs outlines 9 Managed Access Areas to cover 15 fishing communities. Over a period of more than 2.5 years Belize Fisheries Department has already conducted consultation with stakeholders to design the nine user zones. The social marketing campaign helped in creating awareness for fishers to respect geographical boundaries, seasonal fishing restrictions, catch size and some quotas. The program has already been implemented by Belize Fisheries Department in Port Honduras & Glover’s Reef marine reserves since 2011.

How does the Program Work

In the first step fishers who should be given access to a particular zone (9 Zones – See the map below) are identified by forming Committees. Each Committee is composed of Licensed Fishers, Fishing co-operatives, Tour Guide Associations, NGOs and the Fisheries Department.

The Committee then identifies fishers for each zone who meet the qualifying criteria which include: (a) hold a commercial fishing license;  (b) license holder should be a Belizean resident; (c) have a traditional history of using the fishing ground and landing such catches in Belize.

The Committee finally recommends the identified permit holders to the Fisheries Administrator at the Fisheries Department, who then grants the licenses. Patrols at sea by Fisheries Department and other licensed holders are then used to ensure that only Managed Access Program license-holders are conducting commercial fishing with the specified zone.


Read the full story on the web here:

Safe Conduct? Twelve years fishing under the UN Code

WWF Report - snapshotThe FAO (UN) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (“the Code”), published in 1995, is widely acknowledged to be a broadly-based, detailed recipe for the sustainable, responsible and equitable exploitation of marine resources. Here we evaluate the degree to which the fisheries management of the 53 top fishing countries is in compliance with Article 7 of the Code. These countries land over 95% of the reported world marine fish catch with more than 150,000 tonnes each per year. This study uses 44 questions designed to capture the key features of the 46 clauses of Article 7 of the Code. Each question is scored against objective criteria on a scale of zero to ten, and a statistical ordination procedure incorporates the stated uncertainty of each score. Information available from publications, reports, web sites, national legislation and from contacts in the target countries has been employed. Each country’s scores were subjected to a formal drafting and cross-checking protocol, and most have been externally validated by independent experts from governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, research institutes and universities. The 53 detailed country reports, comprising about 1200 pages and 2500 references, are published separately and are in the form of open ‘living documents’ that are revised in the light of fresh or corrected information. Analysis here is based on revisions to April 2008. We identify the best and worst countries in terms of compliance with the Code; distinguish each country’s intentions, as revealed by its laws, legislation and practices, from the effectiveness of its management measures; and we partition the results into six detailed evaluation fields. Overall compliance with the Code is dismal: not one country out of the 53 achieves a “good” score of 70% or more. Only six countries (11%) have overall compliance scores whose confidence limits overlap 60% (Norway, USA, Canada, Australia, Iceland, Namibia). This means that, twelve years after the Code of Conduct was agreed, there is a great deal of room for improvement in compliance even among those countries at the top end of the rankings. At the lower end, the alarming finding is that 28 countries (53%) had ‘fail grades’ of less than 40% (Peru, Poland, India, Ghana, Taiwan, Latvia, Philippines, Brazil, Argentina, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Ecuador, Indonesia, Iran, Thailand, Ukraine, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, Turkey, Bangladesh, Egypt, Yemen, Nigeria, Angola, Myanmar, North Korea). In the middle range, disappointing scores from most developed European nations with the undoubted resources and know-how to implement the Code reinforce the low political priority given to improving fisheries management internationally. One encouraging finding is that some developing countries score more highly for the Code than many developed European countries, signifying that some elements of good fishery management can be achieved even with limited resources. A negative relationship with a marine biodiversity index suggests that management is weakest in the most species rich jurisdictions.

Safe Conduct (WWF 2009)

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Marine Fish Catches in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone

Taking aIndia - IUU REport (MRAG 2010)dvanage of previous local contacts, language and knowledge of the coastal areas of India, in a 7– month field visit in 2008/9, Ganapathiraju Pramod gathered information that may be used to make a complete estimate of fishery extractions, including illegal and unreported landings and discards (IUU). Nine of the ten coastal States of India were visited, including the Andaman Islands. Methods used were over 150 confidential interviews, gathering of grey literature reports and direct observations. The trip was sponsored partly by the UBC Cecil and Kathleen Morrow Scholarship for 2007, by DEFRA (UK Government, as part of global analysis of illegal fishing), and partly by MRAG (UK, as relating to a core area of interest). This report describes the fieldwork completed, together with some preliminary results that suggest an Indian IUU catches in excess of one million tonnes per year.

IUU_India Report (MRAG 2010)

Sources of Information Supporting Estimates of Unreported Fishery Catches (IUU) for 59 Countries and the High Seas

FCRR 2008 report (IUU catches supporting estimates)Illegal and unreported fishing prejudices the managed recovery of the world’s oceans from severe fish depletions. It is reported to lead to a loss of many billions of dollars of annual economic benefits and has wider consequences for conservation and food supply. Estimating the level of illegal fishing is, by its very nature, extremely difficult and has not previously been attempted on a global scale. Fishing vessels, especially those fishing in high seas waters and under third party access agreements to EEZ waters, are highly mobile. Although there are a number of studies of the level of IUU fishing in individual fisheries (both EEZs and high seas), in this work we have attempted, for the first time, a detailed study that can provide global estimates of current and historical illegal and unreported catches. This Report documents source material used in assembling quantitative estimates of illegal fishery catches, unreported catches and discards used in a series of spreadsheet analyses as part of a global estimate of IUU fishing. The results, together with details of the methods used, are published in Agnew et al. (2009) and in Pitcher et al. (2009). High Seas material is based on information from six selected RFMOs, supplemented with notes on high seas activities from individual countries. Information on individual countries is based on material extracted from previous country reports covering compliance with the FAO (UN) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing (Pitcher et al. 2006), supplemented with some additional and more recent notes. The 59 countries covered here amount to approximately the top 96% of the world fish catch.

IUU Supporting estimates report (FCRR 2008)

Illegal and Unreported Fishing: Global Analysis of Incentives and a Case Study Estimating Illegal and Unreported Catches from India

Download reportUBC - PhD Thesis 2012

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing has been identified as one of the important drivers affecting sustainable management of fish stocks worldwide. The thesis employs three approaches to identify and evaluate drivers of illegal and unreported fishing worldwide. First, a case study approach was used to determine adequacy of monitoring control and surveillance in fisheries of 41 countries. Results demonstrate that MCS is poor with both developing and developed countries having problems in this area. The second approach used 1211 illegal fishing penalty cases in 109 countries to show that low penalties provide incentives for IUU fishing to persist in many EEZs. Finally a detailed analysis of the Indian EEZ exemplifies the problems of developing countries by evaluating various stages where illegal and unreported catches occur in commercial and small-scale fisheries. Results from each of the nine maritime states in India (including the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands) reveal that 45,000 to 60,000 tonnes is taken annually by illegal foreign fishing vessels, while 1.2 million tonnes of discards and 293,000 tonnes remain unreported in the small-scale and commercial trawl fisheries.

Evaluations of Compliance with the FAO (UN) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (53 countries)

FCRR_2006_14-2This report presents evaluations of the compliance of 53 countries (strictly, marine fisheries jurisdictions) representing over 96% of the reported world fish catch, with Article 7, covering Fisheries Management, of the FAO (UN) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, originally agreed by members of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and published in 1995.

— Fisheries Centre Research Reports 2006 Volume 14 Number 2

Download report

Are Port State Measures Enough to control IUU seafood imports into U.S.A: Next Steps ?

On October 22, 2015 the U.S. Senate passed the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act. The new Bill (H.R. 774) would provide more powers to NOAA inspectors to conduct thorough inspections and deny entry to suspected IUU vessels at U.S. ports. In this context there are several pros and cons that need to be taken into account with respect to the effectiveness of this new law.

USA imports more than its exports.

  1. Mislabeled seafood might be imported in significant quantities given the shortage of seafood inspections at major ports.
  2. More than 91% of seafood consumed in USA is imported; mostly from developing countries.
  3. Between 20% and 32% ($1.3–2.1 billion) of wild-caught seafood US imports are illegal.
  4. Significant portion of imported seafood is of farmed origin. But actual percentage of farmed products inspected for presence of antibiotics and other banned chemicals remains low. Less than 2% of the imported seafood is inspected by FDA and less than 1% is tested in laboratories.
  5. Bulk of the imported seafood imports into USA are processed fish making them vulnerable to mislabeling.
  6. Very few illegal fishing vessels on RFMO blacklists actually visit or land catches in U.S. ports. Most of the imported seafood arrives in Container ships from other countries.
  7. Countries, companies or fishing vessels identified for IUU fishing abroad have not received any trade sanctions.

Country of Origin labelling is not in place. Traceability issues still need to be addressed.

Advantages of the new Bill

  • The Bill would provide more powers to NOAA Law Enforcement officers and U.S. Coast Guard.
  • The Bill states that information on suspected IUU fishing vessels will be shared with other countries. However, the nature of procedures or current  data sharing protocols remain unknown.
  • The Bill would provide greater oversight for cheaper seafood imports of some commercial seafood (Alaska crabs from Russia) and other fish that is sold by U.S. companies.
  • The Bill could allow for better co-ordination of inspections among various U.S. Government agencies at ports.

Other Resources:

Brandon, H. (2015) U.S. rejecting fish imported from China and Vietnam at record rates – Fish contaminated with Formaldehyde, other harmful chemicals,    July 24, 2015.

Connie, R. (2014) Unsustainable Seafood: A New Crackdown on Illegal Fishing, Yale University, April 22, 2014.

Intrafish (2015) U.S. seafood imports up 6.6%, but buyers spend less, Intrafish, September 4, 2015.

NPR (2015) “The Great Fish Swap”: How USA is Downgrading its Seafood Supply, July 17, 2015.

Pramod, G., Nakamura, K., Pitcher, T. J., & Delagran, L. (2014). Estimates of illegal and unreported fish in seafood imports to the USA. Marine Policy, 48, 102-113.