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Keeping Illegal Fish and Timber off the Market

Keeping Illegal Fish and Timber off the Market

A Comparison of EU Regulations

Illegal fishing and logging, and the international trade in illegally sourced fish and wood products cause enormous environmental and economic damage. Consumer countries contribute to the problem by importing fish and timber without ensuring legality – a problem the EU tries to address with two new regulations. In this briefing paper, Duncan Brack, Heike Baumüller and Katharina Umpfenbach compare the recently adopted EU regulations on illegal fish and timber products. The authors contrast the very different approaches and highlight areas that might need further strengthening.

  • In response to the global problem of illegal logging and fishing, and the failure of the international community effectively to address the problem, the European Union has moved to tighten its own regulations.
  • The EU regulation to combat illegal fishing introduces comprehensive certification and traceability requirements for anyone wishing to import fish products into the EU, and provides for extensive enforcement measures that can be used by European authorities to ensure compliance with the regulation.
  • The EU regulation on illegal logging establishes a licensing system with countries that have entered into voluntary partnership agreements (VPA) with the EU. An additional regulation is currently being developed to try to ensure that illegal timber from all countries is excluded from the EU market.
  • The broad scope of the illegal fishing regulation, in terms of its geographical reach and its emphasis on enforcement is, at least in part, motivated by the ‘common property’ nature of global fisheries resources, which makes it difficult to address the impacts of illegal fishing at the national level.
  • The bilateral VPA process recognizes the national character of forest governance. While slow in their implementation, the VPAs – with their emphasis on capacity-building and stakeholder engagement – have the potential to trigger long-lasting governance reforms.

The Briefing Paper is available for download on the Chatham House Website.


Baumüller, Heike; Duncan Brack and Katharina Umpfenbach 2009: Keeping Illegal Fish and Timber off the Market. A Comparison of EU Regulations. Chatham House Briefing Paper. EERG BP 2009/04. London: Chatham House.

Heike Baumüller
Duncan Brack
Published In
Briefing Paper: Chatham House Briefing Paper , EERG BP 2009/04
12 pp.
Illegal timber and wood products, international timber trade, illegal fishing, due diligence regulation,