Short History of International Actions and Initiatives against IUU Fishing Activities


Since 1992, the international community has promoted major initiatives and actions for the long-term sustainable management of fisheries resources. 

In 1992 International Conference on Responsible Fishing (Cancun, Mexico) adopted the Cancun Declaration, which called upon FAO to develop an International Code of Conduct on Responsible Fishing. Following the Cancun conference, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCED, Rio, Brazil) adopted Agenda 21, and a programme of action for sustainable development. Agenda 21, Chapter 17 pointed out problems of unregulated fishing, vessel reflagging to escape control and lack of sufficient co-operation between States in the management of high seas fisheries.

Based on the Cancun Declaration and Agenda 21, FAO hosted consultations on high seas fishing that provided technical input for the UN fish stock conference in September 1992. As a result, the Compliance Agreement was approved by the 24th session of the FAO Conference (November 1993). The motivation for the negotiation of the Compliance Agreement was directly related to the IUU fishing issue. The Agreement seeks to ensure that flag States exercise more effective control over their vessels while fishing on the high seas by requiring vessels to be authorized to engage in such fishing. In this way the Agreement would deter unauthorized vessels from high seas fishing and from not complying with conservation and management measures that agreed by competent organisations.

The United Nations General Assembly considered, for the first time in 1994, the issue of unauthorised fishing in zones of national jurisdiction and its impact on living marine resources of the world’s oceans and seas. In so doing the Assembly adopted ‘UN Fish Stock Agreement’ in 1995. Also in 1995 the FAO Code of Conduct which was adopted. The Code embraces all fisheries while the Compliance Agreement and UN Fish Stock Agreement, respectively, are restricted in application in terms of area (high seas) and stocks (straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks).

In the evolution of terminology, the first formal mention of IUU fishing appeared during a CCAMLR meeting in 1997. At this meeting the international community showed an interest not only in the illegal fishing but also unregulated and unreported fishing. Since 1997 the term IUU fishing has been used regularly at CCAMLR meetings, and it has subsequently been diffused into other international fisheries discussions.

IUU fishing was addressed at length in the 1999 Secretary-General’s Report to the UN General Assembly on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. In November 1999 the General Assembly adopted Resolution 54/32 which included references to combat IUU fishing. These reports and references to IUU fishing have clearly placed the issue on the international fisheries and oceans agenda. Concurrently, the Seventh Session of the UN CSD in April 1999 underscored the importance of Flag State and Port State issues in combating IUU fishing and invited IMO to develop relevant measures.

The International Plan of Action for IUU fishing was developed as a voluntary instrument, within the framework of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, in response to a call from the 23rd Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries. A draft text for IPOA-IUU fishing was elaborated at an Expert Consultation (in Sydney, Australia, in May 2000) and followed by Technical Consultations (FAO, in October 2000 and February 2001). The IPOA-IUU fishing was adopted by consensus at the 24th Session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries in March 2001 and endorsed by 120th Session of the FAO Council on 23 June 2001.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development (September 2002, Johannesburg, South Africa) recognised that protecting and managing the natural resource base for economic and social development are  essential requirements for sustainable development. From the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, the Summit also set targets and timetables for the management of fisheries, including “Put into effect the FAO international plans of action to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by 2004”. In September 2002, WSSD reaffirmed to put the IPOA-IUU into effect by the agreed date (June 2004) and have agreed to eliminate subsidies that contribute to IUU fishing for sustainable fisheries management.

In November 2002, the Santiago de Compostela International Conference was held in order to give political impetus and follow up the International Plan of Action against IUU fishing. The Conference formulated initiatives and views as how best to stamp out IUU fishing at regional, national and international level in the creation of a Plan of Action.

At its meeting in Evian in June 2003, G8 leaders recognised that healthier and more sustainable managed resources were needed to ensure that fish stocks could provide food and livelihoods for the one billion people depending on it. G8 leaders adopted a Marine Environment and Tanker Safety Action Plan and in this regard recognised the need for stronger and more concerted action against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities. In doing so they particularly emphasised the need to address the lack of effective flag State control of fishing vessels and in particular those flying Flags of Convenience.

In December 2003, the OECD Roundtable on Sustainable Development announced the creation of a Ministerial Task Force  led by the British Minister of State for the Environment and with the participation of Ministers of Fisheries of Australia, Chile, Namibia and New Zealand. The objective of the Task Force, established for a period of two years, is to prepare recommendations on how to prevent and eliminate IUU fishing that are analytically sound, politically realistic and financially viable and to ensure their implementation.


Overview of International Developments of IUU Fishing Issues




May 1992 International Conference on Responsible Fishing
(Cancun, Mexico)
Cancun Declaration
 June 1992 UN Conference on Sustainable Development Agenda 21
 Nov 1993 27th Session of the
FAO Conference
Compliance Agreement
 Nov 1994 Entry into force of UNCLOS
Aug 1995 United Nations Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks UN Fish Stocks Agreement
Oct 1995 28th Session of the
FAO Conference
Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
Oct 1997  CCAMLR Meeting First formal mention of
IUU terminology
March 1999 FAO Ministerial Meeting
on Fisheries
Rome Declaration on Responsible Fisheries
Nov 1999 UN General Assembly Resolution 54/32 (references to combat IUU fishing
May 2000 Expert Consultation on
IUU fishing (Sydney, Australia)
A draft text for IPOA-IUU fishing
Oct 2000/
Feb 2001
Technical Consultation
on IUU fishing (Rome, FAO)
A draft text for IPOA-IUU fishing
April 2001 24th Session of the
FAO Fisheries Committee
 IPOA-IUU fishing (adoption)
June 2001 120th Session of the
FAO Council
IPOA-IUU fishing (endorsement)
Sept 2002 The World Summit on
Sustainable Development
(Johannesburg, South Africa)
Plan of Implementation
Nov 2002 International Conference
against IUU Fishing
(Santiago de Compostela, Spain)
Conclusion of Conference 
June 2003 G8 meeting in Evian Marine Environment and Tanker Safety Action Plan
Dec 2003 Creation of Ministerial Task Force
by OECD Roundtable
on Sustainable Development
2 year mandate to prepare recommendations to prevent and eliminate IUU fishing


Related Documents