Compliance: illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

​​​Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major threat to the sustainable management and conservation of world fisheries. IUU fishing seriously undermines legal fishing operations and significantly reduces the economic benefits that would otherwise come from legal fishing.

  • Australia’s multifaceted approach to combating IUU fishing includes:
  • strengthening existing fisheries management and conservation arrangements
  • developing and adopting new measures to combat IUU fishing
  • urging other countries to cooperate in actions against IUU fishing operations
  • encouraging other countries to fully implement key international instruments consistent with their international obligations.

Illegal fishers are highly adaptive and are often well organised. The government is taking direct action against illegal fishers, including through apprehensions and prosecutions, outing the beneficial owners of illegal fleets, building regional capacity in monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS), strong on the water enforcement (including multilateral enforcement operations in the Pacific) and delivering education outreach in the region about the severe impacts of illegal fishing.

Australia was a driving force behind the development and implementation of the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU), adopted by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) members in 2001. Australia implements the IPOA-IUU through Australia’s National Plan of Action on IUU fishing (NPOA-IUU) and the Fisheries Management Act 1991.

In 2007, Australia, working with Indonesia, led the establishment of a world-first Regional Plan of Action against IUU fishing (RPOA-IUU). The RPOA-IUU is a ministerial initiative of eleven countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The aim of the RPOA-IUU is to promote responsible fishing practices and combat IUU fishing in the Southeast Asian region.

At the national level, Australia applies a stringent management regime to vessels operating under our flag within our Exclusive Economic Zone and on the high seas. The fishing operations of Australian-flagged vessels within the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ) are controlled by federal, state and territory fisheries legislation.

Fishing operations are authorised through the issue of licences and concessions that are subject to specific management rules that are directed towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of the fisheries resources. Risk-based fisheries monitoring and compliance regimes are developed and implemented by both the federal and state governments to ensure that the integrity of the fisheries management arrangements is maintained. The nature of each compliance program is dependent on the requirements for each fishery and involves a mixture of physical surveillance both on the water and from the air, the monitoring of unloads of catches in port, the auditing of paper trails to determine catch landings and technical applications such as Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS).

Australia requires all Australian flagged fishing vessels to be authorised to fish in waters outside the AFZ. Consequently, it is an offence for an Australian flagged fishing vessel to operate on the high seas without the appropriate authorisation. Among other things, operators using Australian-flagged vessels on the high seas are required to mark their vessels in accordance with the FAO standard specifications, facilitate the carriage of observers, complete catch and effort logs and operate a VMS which reports to the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA). In addition, Australian-flagged vessels are required to operate in a manner that does not contravene Australia’s obligations under international agreements and other arrangements to which Australia is a party.

Australia is committed to continuing its efforts, in concert with other concerned members of the international community, to eliminate IUU fishing.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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