Key finding

Despite global efforts to eradicate illegal fishing, companies remain on the sidelines

Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing poses an enormous threat to the sustainability of fisheries and the well-being of fishers and coastal communities, particularly in developing countries. IUU exacerbates issues such as overfishing, environmental degradation, and human rights abuses like slavery at sea. With 20% of the world's catch originating from IUU fishing, large seafood companies, due to their size and global reach, must become part of the solution by identifying risks and developing a clear plan of action. However, only 3/30 demonstrate they assess IUU risks in their operations and supply chain and none disclose the results of their assessments. While most companies are taking some steps to mitigate IUU risks through certification, too few know where the risks are in their operations and supply chains.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which is estimated to account for around 20% of global fisheries production, breaches both domestic and international laws, and most often occurs in areas lacking specific conservation or management regulations. IUU activity has a significant damaging impact on marine ecosystems and economic stability and is linked to various criminal activities, such as modern slavery and other human rights violations. Consequently, IUU fishing severely hinders the advancement of long-term sustainability and social responsibility within the seafood industry.

Identifying and assessing IUU risks

For companies to effectively take part in the fight against IUU, they should first assess risks of IUU in their supply chain in order to guide and prioritize actions to mitigate those risks. Conducting such an assessment requires expertise, financial investment, internal capacity and tools to collect and assess information. Collecting data to assess IUU risks can be challenging, especially in data-poor supply chains. However, data such as PSMA (port state measure agreement) ratification status, whether a country has received a yellow or red card under the EU IUU regulation, verification of vessel identity, licenses and authorization, presence of vessels on IUU fishing lists, analyses of vessel activities at sea, and consistent use of automatic identification systems (AIS), can all be used to conduct an initial risk assessment.

Although there are currently no perfect tool to assess IUU risks, some companies have developed their own methodology to assess them. For example, Bolton Foods, in partnership with WWF, initiated a comprehensive IUU risk assessment throughout their supply chain. Labeyrie and Royal Greenland have developed an IUU risk assessment tool (not publicly available), allowing them to create an appropriate action plan with suppliers to remove or mitigate any identified risks. However even among these companies a lot of work remains to be done, as none of them disclose the outcomes of their risk assessments. Nor do they disclose the specific actions taken to address and mitigate the identified risks.

Mitigating and addressing IUU risks

There are many actions companies can take to mitigate and address IUU risks.


Establishing robust interoperable traceability systems is essential to track the origin of seafood products back to the point of harvest. However, our results show that only four companies demonstrate they are actively working towards implementing the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST) standards (Labeyrie Fine Foods, Thai Union, Cargill and Nueva Pescanova) and only one of those companies (Nueva Pescanova) has a time-bound commitment to GDST.

Certification and audits

Certifications such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) ensure consumers that that the seafood products on their plate do not come from IUU fishing operations. Furthermore, tools such as the ISSF ProActive Vessel Registry (PVR) (tuna only) can also help mitigate risks. Indeed, vessels listed on the PVR undergo annual audits to assess the vessel attribute and compliance. The majority of companies assessed source some of their products from certified fisheries. In addition, a number of companies are ISSF members and therefore have a system to cross check their source vessels against the IUU vessel list and source from PVR listed vessels.


Advocacy, when done jointly with other companies, can be a powerful tool to engage governments in strengthening their policies and enforcement against IUU fishing. We found that a number of companies are involved in joint advocacy efforts to mitigate IUU. For instance, SeaBOS as well as other pre-competitive initiatives such as ISSF, GSSI and SeaPact released multiple calls to action to governments with regards to IUU fishing. In the Seafood Stewardship Index, 13 out of 30 companies are members of one of these pre-competitive collaborations.

In summary, many companies take some kind of action to mitigate risks of IUU caught entering their supply chain either through traceability, certification, audits or advocacy. However, to effectively tackle IUU fishing, more companies must assess and identify where the highest risks of IUU are in their supply chain, and use this information to guide and inform targeted action to address those risks.

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More companies commit to traceability but remain vague on concrete progress

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