A group of 91 Member States of the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have concurred on the final text of a new treaty intended to seal off fishing ports to vessels involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The "Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing" is the first international treaty to specifically eye in on the IUU fishing matter.
An inspector uses a gauge to measure the mesh of a trawl net. - (Photo:FAO)
"It is hoped that the agreement will help block IUU-caught fish from entering international markets, thereby removing an important incentive for some fishermen to engage in illicit fishing," indicates the official FAO press release.
Delegates from the 91 countries committed to defining and implementeing various measures to restrict the entry of different ports to fishers engaged in IUU fishing activities.
The main points agreed upon are:
Foreign fishing vessels looking to dock will be required to request permission ahead of time from a series of specially designated ports, by transmitting data on their activities and the catch they carry on board. In so doing, authorities will have the possibility of detecting illegal activities in advance;
The treaty obliges countries to submit to routine inspections and establish a series of norms for use during the same. Whether or not a vessel has engaged in illicit fishing activities can often be surmised upon examination of the ship's papers, its fishing gear, the catches made and log records;
Signatory countries must guarantee that the ports and inspectors are adequately equipped and trained;
Port states must publish reports when a vessel is denied access, and the national authorities of the country whose flag the vessel is flying must take retaliatory measures;
The treaty calls for the creation of information-sharing networks that allow countries access to data on IUU-fishing-associated vessels, as well as sets forth aid so that resource-strapped developing nations can comply with their treaty obligations.
"By frustrating responsible management, IUU fishing damages the productivity of fisheries - or leads to their collapse. That's a serious problem for the people who depend on them for food and income," said FAO Assistant-Director General for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Ichiro Nomura.
"This treaty represents a real, palpable advance in the ongoing effort to stamp it out," Nomura added, referring to poaching.
The treaty will now have to be reviewed by FAO's Committee on Constitutional and Legal Matters at its next meeting, set for 23 and 25 September 2009.
From there it will be submitted to FAO's Council, and then to FAO's Conference in November for its final review and formal adoption.
The Agreement must be ratified at the national level to go into effect: Thirty days after 25 States have OK'd its contents, it will enter into force.
"Of course, the effectiveness of port state measures depends in large part on how well countries implement them," said David Doulman, a FAO expert.
"So the focus now is to make sure that countries and other involved parties have the means and know-how to enforce it and are living up to their commitments. Importantly, the Agreement provides for assistance and support to developing countries to help them with implementation," he added.
The FAO Member States that participated in the talks included: Germany, Angola, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Chile, China, Cyprus, European Community, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Ecuador, the United States, Egypt, Eritrea, Slovenia, Spain, Ethiopia, Russian Federation, Fiji, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Iceland, Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lesotho, Libya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, the Netherlands, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Central African Republic, Republic of Korea, Congo DR, Dominican Republic, Samoa, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, the Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam, Zambia and the Faroe Islands.