UN agency urges implementation of accord to tackle illegal fishing

Offloading tuna in Côte d’Ivoire at Abidjan’s main port. Photo: FAO/Sia Kambou

12 July 2016 – An international agreement aimed at tackling illegal fishing “marks the dawn of a new era,” but rapid action is needed to ensure that its implementation is effective, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said.

“Generations to come will recognize the importance of this achievement, your achievement,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva at an event held yesterday to celebrate the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, which went into force on 5 June.

The treaty was adopted as an FAO agreement in 2009 after a years-long diplomatic effort, and is the first-ever binding international accord that focuses specifically on illicit fishing. More than 30 nations, as well the European Union on behalf of its 28 members, have acceded to the treaty.

Specifically, the treaty requires foreign vessels to submit to inspections at any port of call and for port states to share information on violations. An improvement on prior rules requiring countries to control the activities of their own fishing fleets, the new agreement is designed to raise the cost of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, as it blocks improperly caught fish from being brought to land and entering markets.

At the event, the FAO Director-General acknowledged that implementation of the agreement may prove challenging for some nations – especially developing and small island States – due to resource and capacity constraints.

The agreement has an article that explicitly enjoins parties to the treaty and international organizations to provide assistance and funding. The Republic of Korea has already confirmed it will make a financial contribution, and other parties should follow suit, Mr. Graziano da Silva said.

In addition, FAO has set up an inter-regional Technical Cooperation Programme and a Global Capacity Development Umbrella Programme to support logistical, legislative and legal aspects of translating the agreement into practice.

“FAO is working to deliver immediate support to those countries that are most in need of it,” Mr. Graziano da Silva said.

Sustainable oceans, sustainable livelihoods

More than half of all fish exports come from developing countries, which underscores the importance, in terms of revenue, of sustainable management practices, FAO said.

It is estimated that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing accounts for annual catches of up to 26 million tonnes globally, with a value of up to $23 billion.

Such fishing not only jeopardizes marine ecosystems but also threatens the livelihoods and food security of millions of fish workers around the world, Mr. Graziano da Silva said.

While the agreement constitutes a powerful and cost-effective tool, it cannot eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing on its own, and must be flanked by other tools and efforts, Mr. Graziano da Silva said, expressing his hope that the momentum generated by the treaty's entry into force will foster further collaboration.

The event was held on the sidelines of the annual FAO Committee on Fisheries, which began yesterday. The Committee, a subsidiary body of the FAO Council, constitutes the only global inter-governmental forum where major international fisheries and aquaculture problems and issues are examined periodically on a worldwide basis.


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