Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is one of the greatest threats to marine ecosystems, undermining efforts to manage fisheries sustainably. The EU and its Member States have put measures in place to keep illegal fishing in check. But due to the uneven way in which checks and sanctions are applied by Member States, these measures are not as effective as they should be. This is the conclusion of a special report published today by the European Court of Auditors (ECA). The auditors recommend that the European Commission should monitor that Member States reinforce their control systems for preventing the import of illegal fishery products, and ensure that they apply dissuasive sanctions against illegal fishing both in EU waters and beyond.
The EU is a major global player in fisheries, both in terms of its fishing fleet (with around 79 000 vessels) and as the world’s largest importer of fishery products (34 % of total world trade). In line with the Sustainable Development Goals, the EU has been committed to ending illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by 2020, a target which has not been met. However, ensuring the legality of a product alone does not guarantee that it is sustainably sourced.
“The EU has control systems in place to make it harder for illegally fished products to reach consumers,” said Eva Lindström, the ECA member who led the audit. “But in spite of those measures, these products keep ending up on EU citizens’ plates. One key reason is that checks and sanctions are applied unevenly by Member States”.