Illegal Unreported Unregulated Tuna Fishing IUU

Regional Cooperation reduces Illegal, Unreported & Unregulated tuna fishing in Pacific

illegal unreported unregulated tuna fishing

The annual volume of catch thought to be taken by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the tuna fisheries of the Western and Central Pacific has reduced over the past decade with only 5% due to unlicensed and unregulated tuna fishing, according to an FFA report released today.

Unlicensed and unregulated tuna fishing has a substantial impact on Member economies depriving Pacific nations of economic rent. This rent is crucial for supporting essential services such as schools, hospitals and roads.

The report estimated the total annual volume of tuna product harvested or transhipped in the Pacific involving IUU activity during 2017-19 to be 192,186 tonnes, worth some $USD333 million (ex-vessel value). This compares with a similar study conducted between 2010-15 where IUU was estimated at 306,440 tonnes, worth about $616 million.

“This result shows that the strong regional cooperation between FFA members on monitoring, control and surveillance is working,” says FFA’s Director General, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen.

“Despite the Pacific tuna fishery covering a massive body of water, our comprehensive strategies are having a profound impact on the volume and nature of IUU in the Pacific.”

Lead author of both studies, Duncan Souter from MRAG Asia Pacific agrees there are obvious and clear benefits from FFA’s regional cooperation.

“Our most recent study confirmed the results of the first study which shows that unlicensed fishing appears to be relatively well-controlled in the region, with estimates of IUU fishing dominated by the licensed fleet,” he said.

“This differs from some other parts of the world and reflects strategies in the Pacific like 100% observer coverage on purse-seine fishing vessels, FFA’s Regional Vessel Register and Vessel Monitoring System, and coordinated regional surveillance operations.”

In the latest study (2017-19) misreporting of catch and harvest of tuna contributed an estimated 89% of the volume of IUU fishing. Only 5% of the total IUU volume was estimated to be due to various forms of unlicensed fishing. The rest was due to non-compliance of license conditions and post-harvest offences.

Mr Souter cautioned that when comparing the results of the 2016 and 2021 reports it was important to keep in mind that some of the data used were different. Changes in fishing effort, catch rates and fish prices since 2016 also influenced overall estimates.

“The 2016 exercise was the first attempt to quantify the nature and scale of IUU in the Pacific’s tuna fisheries. It was very much a first cut, which could be updated over time as data improved and circumstances changed,” he said. “The 2021 study definitely had better data, but it’s the next evolution of an ongoing process.”

The study noted that while the purse seine fishery is subject to strong monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) arrangements, including 100% observer coverage and a requirement to tranship catch in port, equivalent measures are not in place for the longline fishery.

A higher proportion of longline fishing occurs on the high seas, where vessels can tranship catch, often with very limited monitoring in place.

Further strategies for validating the volume and species of tuna taken in longline fisheries include:

  • Strengthening the effectiveness of the transhipment observer program
  • Wider use of electronic reporting and monitoring (cameras on vessels)
  • Developing a catch documentation scheme.

“FFA members are implementing stronger MCS measures for their domestic longline vessels, including a 10-fold increase in monitoring of longline fishing vessels unloading at FFA ports,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen.

“They are strongly advocating through the WCPFC for more effective monitoring of all longline fishing in the Convention Area, including on the high seas,” said Dr Tupou-Roosen.

Read / Download: The Quantification of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in the Pacific Islands Region – a 2020 Update

HONIARA, 13 December 2021
Media Contacts:

Media are invited to attend an online briefing with Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen and Duncan Souteron Tuesday 14 December at 10am Honiara time.

Media are asked to contact [email protected]  to RSVP to the media briefing and receive Zoom details to attend and a 2-page media summary of the report.


Samantha Mattila
FFA Strategic Communications Manager
[email protected] Mob: +61 434 567 673

About the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA)

FFA assists its 17-member countries to sustainably manage fishery resources that fall within their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). FFA provides expertise, technical assistance and other support to its members who make decisions about their tuna resources and participate in regional decision making on tuna management. 

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