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July 8, 2021

ICCAT takes important steps towards strengthening measures to combat IUU fishing


In June 2021, member countries of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT)’s Integrated Monitoring Measures (IMM) working group met online to discuss and consider the advancement of ICCAT’s conservation and management measures.  

During this meeting, IMM members reviewed a series of proposals including those intended to strengthen ICCAT’s measures aimed at combatting illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Among these was a proposal tabled by the European Union (EU), aimed at preventing individuals and companies from benefitting from or supporting IUU fishing, including through providing IUU vessels with services. If adopted, this measure would help prevent, for example, vessels on ICCAT’s IUU vessel list from being insured, financed, repaired, certified, surveyed or fueled by companies based in ICCAT member countries.  

Similar measures are already in place in other regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs), and some countries can offer valuable guidance on their experience in transposing this requirement into national legislation and in implementing it in practice.  

ICCAT’s member countries could look to the United Kingdom (UK) for such guidance on transposition and implementation. In the UK, legislation has existed since 2009 prohibiting its nationals from conducting business connected to IUU fishing, and the UK’s Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has taken their role in implementing this seriously. The London market is an important hub for marine insurance globally and the MMO has specifically paid attention to this sector, investigating cases brought to their attention through Interpol and NGO reporting where IUU vessels have been linked to UK-based insurance companies. They have also helped to raise awareness on this issue through two insurance industry events – a workshop in 2015 and a forum in 2019.  

Discussion on this matter will continue during ICCAT’s annual Commission meeting in November, when ICCAT’s Permanent Working Group (PWG) is next scheduled to meet. Oceana urges ICCAT’s member countries to adopt the EU’s proposal and consult with the UK to gain a greater understanding of implementation options. In addition, we recommend the following approaches: 

– Adopting legislation making it an offense to conduct business with an RFMO-listed IUU fishing vessel and to engage in, benefit from, or support IUU fishing. 

– Empowering enforcement authorities to investigate and verify cases where evidence has surfaced linking domestically based companies to RFMO-listed IUU fishing vessels.  

– Establishing deterrent sanctions to be applied in instances where companies do not cooperate when requested to cancel business contracts that support IUU fishing. 

– Exchanging information with other countries that could help in the sanctioning of those that engage in, benefit from or support IUU fishing. 

– Raising awareness about IUU fishing and promoting improvements to due diligence processes, including the screening of RFMO IUU vessel lists, within sectors that provide services to fishing vessels. 

– Increasing the accessibility of RFMO IUU vessel lists for private sector due diligence purposes. 


ICCAT is an RFMO responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas.