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Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing kills 100,000 cetaceans each year

The illegal, unregulated and unreported hunting of 56 species of small whales and dolphins by over 40 countries threatens entire populations and species.



Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing robs economies and societies of catches worth billions of dollars each year. It has huge environmental impacts on fish stocks through impairing scientific research and fisheries management efforts. It helps prevent governments and regional fisheries management organisations from achieving sustainable fisheries.


IUU Fishing Index

The degree to which all coastal states are exposed to IUU fishing, and how they respond is provided in an index. The index consists of 40 indicators, based mostly on published information, but also on a short survey. Individual indicators are weighted as low, medium or high, depending on the strength of their apparent link to IUU fishing. The Index, launched in February 2019, can be found here.


IUU Bycatch

IUU fishing vessels often operate in marine protected areas, which exacerbates the problem of overfishing. Moreover, non-target species, such as sharks, Bryde’s whales and whale sharks, dolphins, rays and turtles, become trapped in the illegal fishing nets. These unwanted species, known as by-catch, are tossed back into the ocean, most often dead from drowning and/or entanglement in nets.


IUU Fishing and Illegal Whaling

Using DNA testing for species identification, several hundred samples from retail markets in Japan and South Korea indicated illegal hunting of humpback and gray whales. One sample from a sushi restaurant in Santa Monica, California, was identified as an endangered sei whale. Similar work is underway to document the prevalence of protected shark species in Hong Kong markets.


In his paper, Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, describe the long legacy of falsifying whale catch records, beginning with the Soviet Union, which failed to account for more than 100,000 whales it killed in the 20th century. This illegal, unreported or unregulated whaling "continues today under the cover of incidental fisheries bycatch and scientific whaling."


100,000 Small Whales and Dolphins Hunted Every Year


The number of small whales and dolphins killed each year by the worst offenders are:


A summary of some of the more shocking revelations can be found here.


Cetaceans Killed as Bycatch

In addition to the 100,000 small whales and dolphins killed each year illegally and unreportedly, a further 1,000 cetaceans are killed each day as bycatch.


Data on Endangered Cetaceans

NOAA Fisheries provides helpful data and facts on the status of threatened and endangered whales, dolphins and porpoises and other species.