Enforcement approaches against illegal fishing in national fisheries legislation

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Marine Policy


Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities are amongst the most serious and persisting global concerns that negatively impact the environment, economy, and livelihoods. The concept of IUU fishing is elaborated under Para 3 of the 2001 International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). In this article, the authors narrow the focus of the discussion herein on ‘illegal fishing’ activities, which generally fall under Para 3.1 of the IPOA-IUU, particularly examining the enforcement approaches against illegal fishing activities in national fisheries legislation. We explore a few overarching questions underpinning the scholarly debate on illegal fishing and crimes in the fisheries sector. First, whether criminalising illegal fishing or subjecting such fishing to criminal law processes lead to better compliance with fisheries legislation or is a more effective approach to tackling illegal fishing. Second, whether the problem of illegal fishing persists due to the lack of its criminalization or the resistance by States to criminalizing illegal fishing activities. Our assessment analyses the primary fisheries legislation of States and the European Union (EU) to better understand the enforcement approaches adopted therein, the responses used to empower national authorities, establish processes, delineate liability, and fix the sanction scheme, including the level of sanctions in terms of severity for illegal fishing. We ultimately aim to demonstrate that the options used to combat illegal fishing set out in national fisheries legislation are not limited to a single type of enforcement approach. Indeed, our assessment of national fisheries legislation shows that most States seem to follow a dual enforcement approach, which includes provisions enabling the use of both administrative and criminal processes and sanctions to enforce against illegal fishing and fishing related activities. We support a multipronged approach to address illegal fishing, which may include legal solutions such as criminalizing serious fisheries violations.

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