Ocean Equity Research

Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and Questions of Equity

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a broad term that captures a range of fishing activities. Despite the widespread use of the term IUU, no binding definition exists. While IUU is a ubiquitous term in both research and policy, it is in fact a homogenisation of three separate issues – ‘illegal fishing’, ‘unreported fishing’, and ‘unregulated fishing’. Each component of IUU represents a complex challenge that undermines global, regional and national efforts to sustainably manage the world’s marine resources. However, the common practice of conflating the individual elements of IUU often masks the distinct drivers and impacts of each issue, and can confuse management objectives, thus undermining the effectiveness of responses.
Quentin Hanich and Laura Osborne recently wrote and presented a paper in Busan, Korea that discusses IUU fishing through the lens of social equity.

They identify equity concerns that arise from the conflation of three distinct management challenges, and the failure of IUU rhetoric and anti-IUU policies to differentiate between fishery sectors and regions. They argue that generalised quantifications of IUU have led to the misrepresentation of local realities, and the development of ineffective and inequitable IUU countermeasures that ignore the specific socio-ecological systems in which IUU occurs. It is widely accepted that IUU fishing disproportionately impacts countries that are highly dependent on fisheries for their food and economic security, particularly developing coastal States and SIDS. But beyond the direct impacts of IUU fishing on equity, its important to also consider how IUU studies and policies may entrench existing inequalities in ocean governance. How does the ambiguous IUU terminology, including the conflation of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, negatively impact on small-scale fishers? How does the lack of differentiation between fishery sectors within anti-IUU policies and narratives render small-scale fishers disproportionately vulnerable to countermeasures? How does the conflation of regions within IUU fishing studies and policies impact on local stakeholders?

This presentation discusses these questions within the context of international fisheries governance, providing case studies as examples, concluding with a discussion of assumptions and questions to be considered when developing studies and policy responses. In order for sustainable fisheries management to be achieved, social equity must be considered from the outset. It is essential that history and context are considered and understood when studying IUU fishing and when developing responses. Achieving social equity is essential for ensuring the long-term success of IUU responses.

Quentin and Laura would like to thank the World Maritime University, the Korean Maritime Institute and the Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries for hosting this important workshop, and Ocean Nexus for their ongoing support for Ocean Equity.

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