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IUU Fishing Frequently Asked Questions

What is IUU Fishing?

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) Fishing generally refers to fishing conducted in violation of national laws or internationally agreed conservation and management measures in effect in oceans around the world.

What are some examples of IUU Fishing activities?

IUU Fishing can include fishing without a license or quota for certain species, unauthorized transshipments to cargo vessels, failing to report catches or making false reports, keeping undersized fish or fish that are otherwise protected by regulations, fishing in closed areas or during closed seasons, and using prohibited fishing gear.

Who is most affected by IUU Fishing?

IUU Fishing poses a direct threat to food security and socio-economic stability in many parts of the world. Developing countries are most at risk from IUU fishing. For instance, total catches in West Africa are estimated to be 40 percent higher than reported catches. Many of the crew on IUU Fishing vessels are from poor and underdeveloped parts of the world, and they are often subjected to unsafe working conditions.

What are the economic losses due to IUU Fishing?

Due to the inherent nature of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, it is difficult to accurately quantify the full global economic impacts resulting from these activities. However, there is little disagreement that it is in the billions, or even tens of billions, of dollars each year. Various studies over the years have assessed regional levels of IUU Fishing and developed estimates of global losses, but such estimates are based on data that is now many years old. Work is currently underway through the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization to develop regional IUU estimate methodologies that can be regularly updated. Implementing the Action Plan’s recommendations will assist in getting a better handle on what the actual level of activity and impacts are so that they may be appropriately addressed. (

How does IUU Fishing affect the seafood industry and U.S. consumers?

By dodging conservation and management measures, companies engaging in IUU Fishing can cut corners and lower their operating costs. As a result, their illegally caught products provide unfair competition for law-abiding fishermen and seafood industries in the marketplace.

How much is at risk from the perspective of the U.S. economy?

U.S. consumers spent an estimated $82.6 billion for fishery products in 2012. By producing and marketing a variety of fishery products for domestic and foreign markets, the commercial marine fishing industry contributed $42 billion (in value added) to the U.S. Gross National Product.