IUU Fishing


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.

The IUU catch is not recorded in catch registers. This is a fundamental aspect because fishing stocks are estimated based on these registers. As a result, 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 other aspects, these measures are focused on closing ports to vessels engaged in illegal fishing activities. However, one of the main challenges faced by measures focused on reducing illegal fishing activities is the implementation of a control and sanctioning system. Such a system is necessary to mitigate the environmental infringements committed by the sector.

What Oceana Does

Oceana works against IUU fishing on three fronts:

  • Oceana on board. During our campaigns on board the Oceana Ranger, we locate and film illegal fishing activities and inform authorities so they can act. This is evidence of the lack of existing control measures.
  • Oceana reports. The information we collect during our campaigns allows us to draft reports about non-compliance to fishing legislation concerning bluefin tuna, the use of illegal gear such as drift nets, or about certain ship owners.
  • Oceana lobbies. Our video recordings and reports allow us to put pressure on politicians to improve our legislations on fishing and prove the lack of control in this sector. In addition, Oceana proposes improvements and alternatives to eradicate IUU fishing.


For years, Oceana has been reporting the use of illegal driftnets in the Mediterranean. Thanks to the organisation’s work, drift nets have been eliminated in the French fleet and the European Commission has had to take measures against Italian drift netters.

The European Commission, and in particular Spain, collaborates with Morocco to convert the Moroccan driftnetter fleet to other, more sustainable gear. This process, followed closely by Oceana, ends on 1 January 2011.

By using an ROV, Oceana has detected and reported the existence of trawling marks in areas protected against this gear due to its capacity to destruct seabeds, which proves the lack of measures to control this fleet even though most of the vessels are equipped with “blue boxes” that monitor their location.

Oceana has repeatedly reported the company Vidal Armadores for its illegal activities and has forced the Spanish government to establish measures and take action to prevent the company from carrying out these illicit fishing activities.