© WWF-US / James Morgan
Fighting illegal fishing
It is estimated that over 35% of the world’s fisheries are overfished while nearly 60% are fished to their maximum capacity. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a leading cause of this state of overfishing in our ocean. Through international commitments such as Sustainable Development Goal 14, political momentum to address the health and sustainable use of our ocean has been building. However, tangible actions to address the long-lasting and even permanent damages from IUU fishing remain inadequate.

Why it matters

The European Union is the largest seafood market in the world, importing around 70% of its seafood. Due to its very nature, IUU fishing is invisible to regulations and policies in place to protect marine life from harmful fishing methods and from overfishing. This also means that IUU fishing is poorly accounted for when governments evaluate the fishing industry’s impact on the ocean and when planning the allowable quantity of fish to be caught in future years. 

IUU fishing practices have dire consequences for multiple stakeholders in achieving sustainable fisheries and a sustainable blue economy, including coastal communities in less developed countries outside the EU that rely on the ocean for their livelihoods, as well as for large- and small-scale fishers that abide by the rules but lose out when there are no fish left. The biggest impact the EU can have to eliminate IUU fishing is to fully implement its zero tolerance approach and prevent the import and sale of illegal seafood products in its market.

What WWF is doing

The WWF EPO works to maximise the impact of the EU’s IUU Regulation, which aims to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing. To date, the Regulation has instigated some key improvements in the global fight against IUU fishing, but significant gaps remain to successfully implement the requirements that block the import and sale of illegally-sourced seafood products in the European market. The EPO aims to ensure that Member States are applying effective controls on the seafood they import to guarantee their legality, thereby demanding fully traceable and transparent seafood supply chains for fresh, frozen and processed products, regardless of their origin. 

The EPO also holds the European Commission accountable to its position as an international leader to set the example for sustainable fishing practices worldwide. We provide evidence-based recommendations and strategic vision to help the EU achieve this position, and build relationships with external stakeholders to leverage the EU’s influence to improve international fisheries governance.

As part of the EU IUU Fishing Coalition, WWF EPO broadens its work to combat illegal fishing and improve transparency in the fisheries sector by ensuring the effective and harmonised implementation of the EU IUU Regulation and by encouraging the EU to effectively support global policy changes via its influence as a major flag and market State. It also promotes increased and effective collaboration between the EU and other major seafood market States, regional fisheries bodies and national authorities.


Dr Antonia Leroy
Heaf of Ocean Policy

Louis Lambrechts
Ocean Policy Officer