The Cost of Being Apprehended Fishing Illegally

Principal Investigator

Ussif Rashid Sumaila


Jackie Alder
Heather Keith

Resource persons

Louisa Wood, Robyn Forrest, Jordan Beblow, Reg Watson, Tony Pitcher, Daniel Pauly, Daniela Kalikoski

Research Project Description


The issue of IUU fishing has been receiving increasing attention among scholars, fisheries managers, governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations. Illegal, unregulated, unreported (IUU) fishing occurs not only in the high seas, but also within exclusive economic zones (EEZ) that are not ‘properly regulated’. IUU fishing leads to the non-achievement of management goals and unsustainable fisheries. The FAO has begun the implementation of an International Plan of Action (IPOA) where all states and regional fisheries organizations are introducing effective and transparent actions to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing and related activities (FAO 2003). A good understanding of the economics of IUU fishing is an important piece of knowledge required in order to design appropriate management measures.


To determine the costs and benefits, both social and monetary from a fishers’ perspective associated with IUU fishing.


We first develop and present a map of IUU incidences as reported in the Fisheries Centre’s Sea Around Us project IUU global database. Next, we develop a conceptual model for the analysis of the cost and benefit aspects of the risk inherent in IUU activities. The model outlines the possible drivers of risk and the costs associated with fraud, avoidance and apprehension as compared to potential benefits. This is then applied to particular incidences where IUU vessels have been caught to determine the net benefits of IUU fishing. We finally discuss three case studies using our conceptual framework.

Expected Results

Some preliminary findings of the study are (i) IUU fishing is widespread spatially but there are relatively fewer IUU activities in the northern hemisphere; (ii) current fine levels are not high enough to serve as deterrents to IUU fishing; (iii) even for a 1 in 5 chance of being apprehended, current fines need to be increased 24 times on average for incidences analyzed to serve as deterrents; (iv) from the case studies, we conclude that (a) it is possible to drive IUU fishing activities close to zero by increasing the cost of being apprehended significantly; (2) when the price of fish being targeted by IUU fishers is high, a much higher detection probability and fine level are required to stop the activity; and (3) when IUU fisher’s are poor, conventional deterrence models are not capable of explaining and providing solutions to the IUU problem.

Project Duration

October 2003-May 2004

Funding Source

The organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Paris, France.