Reducing Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported (IUU) Fishing

Created on Monday, 18 June 2012

This is a guest post from Tami Weiss who is working with FishWise for the summer through a fellowship with Center for Blue Economy, part of the Monterey Institute’s International Environmental Policy degree program. 

A recently released journal article investigated collaboration across diverse organizations with a common goal of reducing IUU fishing in the Southern Ocean. The original article can be found here: Global Cooperation among Diverse Organizations to Reduce Illegal Fishing in the Southern Ocean .

The research objective: Investigate the effect of organizational networks on reducing illegal fishing.

Why it’s important: Regulating global fisheries is a major international governance challenge and one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems. Toothfish IUU catches peaked in 1997 at 35,000 tons, 4 times the licensed quota, with an estimated value of over US $150 million. These catches negatively impacted both the legal fishers in the area and seabird populations caught as bycatch in the longline fishery.

The strategy: Through a web-based survey, the authors collected information on the patterns of cooperation between organizations. By analyzing the structure and function of this network, they were able to determine if cooperation among various organizations was associated with a reduction of IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing.

The data: A total of 117 organizations from six continents were identified and investigated, based on their work aimed at reducing IUU fishing in the Southern Ocean. While the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) was identified as the central figure in this particular network, other organizations included government agencies, fishing organizations, NGOs and international governance organizations. From this larger network, the following sub-networks were analyzed:

Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS): Government and licensed fishing organizations constitute the major players in this sub-network

Illicit Trade Flows: Government, licensed fishing organizations and NGOs are the major players in this sub-network

Policy Development: NGOs and international governance organizations hold the major roles in this sub-network

While organizations tend to collaborate with similar organizations, across the entire network there was consistent agreement with the statements “IUU fishing undermines our international obligations” and “IUU fishing represents a form of organized crime.”

The results: Based on their research the authors concluded that it is possible for diverse organizations to collaborate on international governance and reduce IUU fishing (see graph). Furthermore, their results indicate that addressing international environmental challenges does not necessarily depend on the creation of a new governmental structure; rather issues can be addressed through existing organizational networks.



Estimated weight of tooth fish caught by IUU fishing in Southern Ocean between 1995 and 2009 (Österblom and Bodin, 2012).

Österblom, H. and Bodin, Ö. 2012. Global Cooperation among Diverse Organizations to Reduce Illegal Fishing in the Southern Ocean. Conservation Biology. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2012.01850.x