Illegal Fishing Strips $10 Billion to $23 Billion, Accounts for 26 Million Tones of Seafood a Year

Human Wrongs Watch

Thirteen additional countries need to ratify an agreement brokered by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to combat illegal fishing by blocking ports to ships known or believed to be carrying illicit catches that account for more than 15 per cent of global output, the agency on 30 July 2015 said.

Momentum is building for a UN-backed accord, which, once operative, will bolster inspections and crack down on lawbreaking ships responsible for up to 15 per cent of global seafood output. Photo: FAO/J. Sutton

“A growing numbers of countries are ratifying an international agreement to combat illegal fishing, fuelling interest in how best to implement the instrument,” FAO said in a press release.

Illicit fishing, according to the agency, includes operating without authorization, harvesting protected species, using outlawed fishing gear and violating quota limits, and “may account for up to 26 million tonnes of seafood a year, more than 15 percent of the total global output.”

“Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is estimated to strip between $10 billion and $23 billion from the global economy, and its impacts undermines the way fish stocks are managed to make it a double concern around the world,” it said.

To help tackle the problem, FAO brokered the adoption in 2009 by its Member States of the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.

The FAO-brokered agreement comes into force when 25 countries have deposited their instrument of ratification, known as acceptance of accession. So far, 12 countries have done so, the latest being Iceland in June. Two more states will soon join them, according to FAO.

In addition to Iceland, signatories that have completed the ratification process are Chile, the European Union, Gabon, Iceland, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, the Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Uruguay.

“The Agreement promotes collaboration between fishermen, port authorities, coast guards and navies to strengthen inspections and control procedures at ports and on vessels,” it said. “Importantly, it also allows states to prevent the landings of catches derived from IUU fishing by vessels regardless of the flag they fly.”

UNDP-GEF report says as little as $5 billion in public funds could catalyse action and financial flows to reverse ocean degradation. Photo: UNDP/A. Chetvergov

UNDP-GEF report says as little as $5 billion in public funds could catalyse action and financial flows to reverse ocean degradation. Photo: UNDP/A. Chetvergov

Blaise Kuemlangan, Chief of FAO’s Development Law Service, said “the Agreement aims to harmonize port controls in order to prevent illegally caught fish from ever entering international markets through ports.”

The ability to turn away vessels taking part in illegal fishing will greatly reduce opportunities for selling their catch, decreasing illicit fishing worldwide, according to Mr. Kuemlangan.

The Agreement will also enable better compliance with the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, which seeks to promote the long-term sustainability of the sector.

To assist countries in building their capacity to implement the agreement, FAO has convened workshops in all world regions, with the Atlantic coast of Africa being “a key priority,” the agency said.

FAO said so far Gabon is the only African country to have ratified the Agreement, but several others are close to completing the process. (Source: UN).

2015 Human Wrongs Watch

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