United Nations officials say that a growing number of countries are ratifying an international agreement to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which strips an estimated $10 billion to $23 billion from the global economy.
To help tackle the problem, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 2009 brokered the adoption by its member countries of the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. The agreement comes into force when 25 countries have deposited their instrument of ratification, known as acceptance of accession.
So far, the FAO said on July 30, 12 countries have done so, the latest being Iceland in June, and soon two more states will join them.
Signatories who have completed the ratification process to date include Chile, the European Union, Iceland, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, the Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Uruguay and Gabon.
The agreement promotes collaboration between fishermen, port authorities, coast guards and navies to strengthen inspections and control procedures at ports and on vessels. The agreement also allows states to prevent the landings of catches derived from IUU fishing by vessels regardless of the flag they fly.
“The agreement aims to harmonize port controls in order to prevent illegally caught fish from ever entering international markets through ports,” said Blaise Kuemlangan, chief of FAO’s Development Law Service. “The ability to turn away vessels taking part in IUU fishing will greatly reduce opportunities for selling their catch, decreasing IUU fishing worldwide.”
The agreement will enable better compliance with the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, which seeks to promote the long-term sustainability of the sector.
Fishing without authorization, harvesting protected species, using outlawed fishing gear and violating quota limits, may account for up to 26 million tons of seafood a year, more than 15 percent of the total global output, the FAO said. Besides economic damage, illicit fishing poses risks to local biodiversity and food security in many countries.
To assist countries in building their capacity to implement the agreement, the FAO has convened a series of workshops in all world regions.
The sixth in the series, funding by the government of Norway and covering West Africa, ran this month in Praia, Cabo Verde, an island country in the central Atlantic Ocean, 350 miles off the coast of Western Africa. Fifty participants from 16 African coastal countries took part, along with experts from the European Union, the International Maritime Organization, the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, the COMHABAT Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation Among African States Bordering the Atlantic Ocean, the Pew Charitable Trust and the World Wildlife Fund.