Garima Singh

“The night view looks like a city,” an observer says. The surface of the waters is shining with the reflections of hundreds of shimmering lights, and the machines floating on the sea range from refrigerated to re-fuelling ones. The vessels are full of thousands of sharks, and sea lions- they are unintendedly killed and will be discarded. It is the night scene on the waters of the Galapagos, a beautiful island in the Pacific. The deep environment is credited for its immense variety, thus known as the ‘living museum and a showcase of evolution’. (UNESCO) This rich “explosion of life” results from the conclave of the cold and hot currents in the area. (Collyns, 2020) However, the island weathers mass illegal fishing. 

The 5th of June is considered the International Day against ‘Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing’, or IUU fishing. The term IUU defines malpractice in itself. ‘Illegal’ connotes that the fishing is conducted by national or foreign vessels without being permitted by the state to do so, or is done despite the restrictions in a particular area. These vessels commit forgery against their own system and can also be part of various fisheries. In addition to contradicting local decrees, they often do not follow international regulations.

‘Unreported’ is when the fishing is not reported to the respective authority or when the management is misinformed. ‘Unregulated’ refers to identity forgery where vessels use the flags of organizations they are not even part of and operate in places where there are no conservation measures currently in force. This also refers to when organizations do not monitor their own ships. The term IUU fishing came into circulation in the 1990s in response to the glitches in the pre-existing policies and frameworks which monitored the misuse of marine resources. (FAO)

The effects of IUU fishing are more prominent in coastal states and large fishing communities that depend on the waters for their livelihood. This topic has recently gained attention among people due to the news and it still needs a lot of research and publishing so people may understand its urgency. Through the course of this paper, I will focus on the various impacts of IUU fishing around the globe, followed by a case study on the Galapagos islands to understand it closely.

IUU fishing has adverse impacts on people. Not only does it destroy the environment and fish stocks in the area but it also affects the local community socially. Massive fishing of specific species endangers the other species in the area which depend on the specific species for food and it leads to their depletion, thus disrupting the food web. ‘Bycatch’ is one of the most ruthless consequences of massive fishing; it occurs when the fishermen, by mistake, catch animals or fish they did not intend to. These animals such as turtles and sea lions are trapped in fishing gear and are killed and discarded back into the ocean. This leads to the killing of thousands of tortoises and inedible marine species as a result.

“Illegal fishing is a massive industry directly threatening the livelihoods of millions of people across the world, especially [those] living in poor coastal communities in developing countries already affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis, and the impact of climate change,” said Matti Kohonen, the executive director of the US Federal Trade Commission. (Collyns, 2022) According to the UN Food And Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the loss of 11–26 million tonnes of fish each year is estimated to have an economic value of US$10–23 billion across the globe. The data says that IUU fishing accounts for approximately one-fifth of global fishing, which translates monetarily to 23.5 billion USD every year, making it the third most rewarding ‘natural resources crime’ after mining and timber. A statement from a local fisherman near the Galapagos goes as follows: “Before, years ago, we fished there by the shore. Now, look where we are! If we fished by the shore now we wouldn’t catch anything. This all comes from bad globalization. It’s not just the Chinese squid fishing boats, there are tuna fishing boats from other countries too, they come and break our nets.” (Al Jazeera, 2022).

To be continued…….


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