A new index ranking vulnerability to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing by country has listed China as having the highest IUU potential.

The index, created by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, ranks countries on a number of metrics, with a higher score meaning a higher likelihood that a country’s policies are contributing to IUU fishing. The metrics have four main categories – coastal, flag, port, and general – which include subcategories like the size of the country’s exclusive economic zone, or the number of distant-water vessels under regional fishery management organizations.

China was by far the worst-ranked country, with a total “IUU score” of 3.93 out of 5. China ranked the worst possible on a number of categories, including the number of vessels on the IUU list and the number of distant-water vessels that are under multiple RFMOs.

China also scored poorly in terms of its number of fishing ports, and how those ports allow foreign vessels and imports.

According to the initiative that started the index, it’s intended to be a tool to better understand illegal fishing worldwide.

“The IUU Fishing Index has been designed to meet the need for a detailed analysis of fishery countries’ vulnerability, exposure and responses to IUU fishing,” the organization stated in a release. “It fills a key gap by analyzing and evaluating, state by state, the global implications of IUU fishing, thereby helping policymakers identify where interventions are most needed.”

Coming in just behind China was Taiwan, with a score of 3.63. Rounding out the worst five countries were Cambodia, with 3.23; Russia, with 3.16; and Vietnam, with 3.16.

In addition, many developing countries in Africa were highlighted as "areas of concern" by the organization, due to a lack of state resources to respond to any IUU fishing.

The best country, and the only to score below 1.5, was Belgium, with a score of 1.43. Just behind Belgium was Latvia, with a score of 1.57, followed by Estonia with a score of 1.67.

Globally, the average score is 2.29. The U.S. came in with a score of 2.29.

"The index fills a critical gap in knowledge about the performance of countries, as assessed against a wide range of indicators," Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management Director Graeme Macfadyen said.  "The index provides a wealth of data at country, regional and ocean basin level and that we hope will stimulate the action that is urgently needed to combat IUU fishing."

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Chris Chase is the Portland, Maine-based associate editor of SeafoodSource. Previously, he worked covering local issues at the Coastal Journal in Bath, Maine, where he won multiple awards from the Maine Press Association for his news coverage and food reviews. Chris is a graduate of the University of Maine, and got his start in writing by serving as a reporter and later the State Editor of The Maine Campus, an award-winning campus newspaper.

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