The illicit activity also makes it impossible for scientists to accurately monitor fish numbers.
MEPs last week voted in favour of encouraging more international cooperation to thwart rogue fishermen who are thought to be landing up to 26Mt of fish each year.
In Westminster, MPs supported a backbench motion to reform Europe’s Common Fisheries Policy (CPF), which some feel encourages the skippers of trawlers to break the law.
The European Parliament has endorsed more inspections at sea, closing markets to illegal seafood and imposing sanctions on negligent states.
Green MEP Isabella Lövin said: “We need to ensure that ruthless operators cannot simply change the flag of their vessels to evade their responsibilities. With many fish stocks around the world already perilously threatened, illegal fishing could be the final straw.”
She added: “As the EU imports over 60% of its seafood, its responsibility to push for better international cooperation is all the more necessary. There is a need for a common import policy among the major fish importing nations – notably, the EU, the US and Japan – with complete traceability and requirements for catch documents for all fish. This should be complemented by global registers for fish DNA to prevent mislabelling.”
In the Westminster debate, Labour’s Frank Doran said the CFP was “broken in several places”, adding that since its introduction the UK fishing fleet, and fish stocks had “deteriorated considerably”.
He quoted a KPMG report that said in Scotland, prosecutors had
pursued fraud valued at £94.1M in the fishing industry in the first half of 2011, up from £2.8M last year.
“The sums involved are huge,” he said. “Everyone in the fishing industry knew that it was going on, and that goes right up to ministers and their officials.
“The fraud has had a number of consequences. One has been a serious distortion of the science, much of which is based on the recording of the details of individual landings. It is clear that, for many years, the recorded landings have been wrong.”
Doran warned of the serious consequences for many businesses that refused to become involved in the black fish trade. Most of them lost trade, and many went bust because their customers could get cheaper fish on the black market, he said.