The fight against illegal fishing: The EU’s role in a global challenge
27 April 2015

The EU not only has a great responsibility to demonstrate legal and sustainable seafood supply chains to its consumers. It must ensure that its access to abundant seafood does not rob more vulnerable communities, of their own, writes Eszter Hidas.

Eszter Hidas is EU Policy Officer for WWF Smart Fishing Initiative’s Illegal Fishing project

Combatting illegal fishing is a colossal global challenge. Illegally caught seafood products reach our markets and they are impossible to differentiate from those that were caught legally. Indeed, fish often travel long journeys from the hook to consumers’ plates, and still many are captured under illegal conditions or through illegal methods. So how legal is the fish we are consuming in the EU?

Illicitly caught fish products are currently estimated to cost between €9-21 billion annually, representing 11 to 26 million tonnes, or approximately 15 %, of world catches.

Fishing activities that do not abide by national and international regulations exploit fish stocks well beyond their sustainable levels, damage marine ecosystems, put legitimate fishers at an unfair disadvantage and jeopardize the livelihoods of millions of people who depend on fishing for their food or income. Additionally, some illegal fishing activities have been closely linked to other serious crimes, such as human and drug trafficking, and slave labour.

Consuming 25% of the world’s seafood, almost 70% of which is imported, the EU possesses the world’s leading seafood market.

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