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Illegal Fishing


Habitat Damage


Crimes on the High Seas

The fewer fish there are, the more desperate we become to catch them. Inevitably, this leads to illegal fishing. International fisheries management agencies report that at least a quarter of the world's catch is illegal, unreported or unregulated.

Management Plans Often Ignored

The biggest issue is pirate fishermen taking fish outside the scope of an existing management plan. These violations include taking undersize fish, fishing in closed areas during seasonal closures, using illegal gear or taking more fish than is allocated.

A Crime Against the Environment and Economies

Illegal fishing hurts our oceans, and our economy. While statistics are scarce, one analysis estimates that worldwide illegal and unreported fishing losses are between 11 and 26 million tons, or around one-fifth of total global fisheries production.

While poor nations are implicated in illegal fishing, developed nations are most to blame. Significant unlawful fishing happens inside the "exclusive economic zones" of many countries (within 200 miles of shore). This is mostly due to a lack of enforcement and penalties when management efforts are ignored.

Hope for the Future

Fortunately, over the last decade, illegal fishing has declined or leveled off in many areas of the world. But there's still much to be done.

What You Can Do

Buy MSC-Certified Sustainable Products

Look for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) blue ecolabel in stores and restaurants. These products are certified sustainable to the standards of the MSC and can be traced back to the certified fishery.

Use Our Consumer Guides

Our printable guides are broken down by region so you can find ocean-friendly seafood wherever you live or travel. Choose from the green "Best Choice" column. Otherwise, try a yellow "Good Alternative."


Story of Hope

Fishery Eco-Certification is on the Rise

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has developed standards for sustainably managed and traceable wild-caught seafood. The number of fisheries that meet MSC ecolabel standards has steadily increased. 

Today, 219 fisheries are MSC-certified, representing more than 10 million tons of seafood, and more than 20,000 seafood products bear the blue MSC ecolabel. Additionally, over 98 fisheries are engaged in the assessment process to become MSC-certified.

Learn about aquaculture Related ocean issue resources