The two fundamentally different CDS models / by Francisco Blaha

Following with the promised slow digests of our book, here is the 5th post (here is the 4th one), since It is essential to understand the two models of CDS we have: multilateral and unilateral.


Current CDS are multilateral schemes founded on international treaty law establishing RFMOs and their rule-making powers, with the exception of the EU CDS, which is a unilateral scheme based on the EU IUU Regulation. (See at end of page, why we don't think the US SIMP is a CDS)*

The fundamental difference between the EU IUU Regulation and current RFMO-based schemes is that it limits the range of action open to the EU in regulating the operation of its CDS. Limits to the EU’s regulatory reach apply specifically to fishing vessels, waters, territories and trading partners that are outside the jurisdiction of the EU.

Because no country or block of nations can impose internationally binding rules, the EU decided in 2008 to regulate the types of fisheries products that could or could not enter its territory. It ruled that fisheries products sourced from IUU fishing would be denied entry into the common EU market as of the beginning of 2010.11 The EU market – and not any particular fishery or fish stock – is the basis of the EU CDS.

In all other cases the fishery and stocks under the purview of an RFMO are the basis of the CDS, and the CDS is legally established through an RFMO CMM that is binding on its members and has the force of international law. The CMMs cover the harvesting and trade dimensions of the CDS and are applicable to the entire fishery, all the trade regardless of supply chain length and permutations, and – by logical extension – all stakeholders that deal with the products in the fishery or in international trade.

Current RFMO-based CDS cover the entire stock unit throughout its global range, and must therefore also be understood as a fisheries-management measure that supports the conservation and management of the species as a whole. Any stock harvested under an RFMO-based CDS is subject to the protection conferred by the CDS.

Another major difference between the EU scheme and RFMO-based schemes is that under the former fish from any fishery are to be certified if it is eventually to be exported to the EU market. Under RFMO schemes, on the other hand, all harvested fish is subjected to certification regardless of its final destination.

The EU scheme thus protects its market from the importation of illegal products, whereas RFMO schemes protect entire stocks from IUU fishing. The EU scheme would only effectively protect stocks from IUU fishing if the entire harvest from an individual fishery was traded to the EU – i.e. if “inclusivity” was maximised.

Although the EU is one of the most important global import markets for fishery products, there is no fishery from which all catches are traded to the EU. Indeed, there are few fisheries from which most harvests are exported to the EU, of which none in tuna fisheries.

The three major world markets for tuna are the EU, Japan and the USA; a number of emerging markets are gradually gaining in importance. The importance of a market varies according to the product that is being traded: the Japanese market, for example, is significant for sashimi-grade tuna, whereas the US and EU markets are more important for canned or canning-grade tuna.

In view of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, which guides FAO work in fisheries, it is essential that fisheries management measures be applied to the stock unit as a whole to achieve the desired effect.

If particular tuna stocks are to be protected through CDS, and if the impact of the CDS is to be maximized, these systems should apply to the stock unit as a whole, all harvests should be subject to certification and all trade should be covered. It follows that, ideally, tuna CDS should apply to individual species and their stocks, and be multilateral in nature.

We accordingly explore the multilateral CDS option as the most appropriate mechanism for designing tuna CDS, and it highlights experiences and lessons learned from the EU IUU Regulation where appropriate.


The SIMP does not foresee the development and implementation of a certification system in the classic CDS sense, and validations of scheme-specific paperwork will not normally be provided by competent authorities along the supply chain upstream of final exportation to the US market. The onus to collect supply-chain information establishing the supposed legality of imported products would largely rest on importers under the SIMP