End­ing rogue fish­ing

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Seafood is by far the most highly traded com­mod­ity glob­ally, feed­ing bil­lions of peo­ple world­wide. Un­for­tu­nately, how­ever, the in­dus­try is plagued by illegal, un­re­ported, and un­reg­u­lated fish­ing, which un­der­mines con­ser­va­tion ef­forts and hand­i­caps hon­est fish­ers and busi­nesses that fol­low the rules. It is high time to ad­dress the prob­lem.

Rogue fish­ing ac­counts for up to one-fifth of all ocean fish caught glob­ally. And while there have been en­cour­ag­ing signs of re­form in some coun­tries’ in­dus­trial-scale fish­eries, the prob­lem re­mains wide­spread, dis­cour­ag­ing oth­ers from fol­low­ing suit and im­ped­ing the re­form of small-scale fish­eries that sup­ply food and liveli­hoods for mil­lions of fam­i­lies. Rules do ex­ist, but they need to be clearer and more spe­cific, ef­fec­tively en­forced, and im­ple­mented across na­tional borders. If not, un­scrupu­lous op­er­a­tors will con­tinue to take ad­van­tage of the lack of reg­u­la­tion and mon­i­tor­ing, with huge im­pli­ca­tions for those who de­pend on coastal fish­eries for their sus­te­nance and liveli­hoods.

A re­cent study found that 20-32% of seafood im­ported into the United States was likely from illegal, un­re­ported, and un­reg­u­lated sources. This alone ac­counts for 4-16% of the value of the to­tal illegal fish catch world­wide, which has an es­ti­mated value of $15-23 bln a year.

Col­lab­o­ra­tion among the US, the Euro­pean Union, and Ja­pan has the po­ten­tial to un­der­pin great strides in ad­dress­ing the prob­lem. The US im­ports more than 90% of its seafood. Ja­pan is the sec­ond-largest seafood im­porter af­ter the US. And the EU is the world’s largest sin­gle mar­ket for seafood prod­ucts, im­port­ing about 60% of the fish it con­sumes. The po­ten­tial power of these three mar­kets’ joint ac­tion is im­mense.

In late 2011, the EU and the US agreed to col­lab­o­rate to com­bat il­licit fish­ing. A lit­tle less than a year later, the EU and Ja­pan agreed to pre­vent im­ports of il­le­gally caught seafood, share in­for­ma­tion, and work to­gether at re­gional fish­eries-man­age­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions. They all agreed to en­cour­age other coun­tries to rat­ify and im­ple­ment the Port State Mea­sures Agree­ment (PSMA), which will make it harder for dis­hon­est fish­ing oper­a­tions to op­er­ate.

Adopted in 2009 by the UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion, the PSMA re­quires par­ties to im­ple­ment stricter con­trols on for­eign-flagged fish­ing ves­sels. To date, 13 coun­tries have rat­i­fied the agree­ment; another 12 must do so for it to en­ter into force and be glob­ally ef­fec­tive.

En­cour­ag­ingly, rogue fish­ing is no longer viewed as an or­phan pol­icy is­sue in some coun­tries. In March, the US Pres­i­den­tial Task Force on Illegal, Un­re­ported, and Un­reg­u­lated Fish­ing and Seafood Fraud re­leased an “all of gov­ern­ment” ac­tion plan. The fact that the is­sue made it to the desk of the US pres­i­dent un­der­scores the need for gov­ern­ments to mo­bilise their re­sources and col­lab­o­rate in­ter­na­tion­ally.

A va­ri­ety of ap­proaches is called for. The EU’s reg­u­la­tions are per­haps the strong­est suite of mea­sures to stop il­lic­itly caught fish from en­ter­ing the mar­ket. Early im­ple­men­ta­tion shows great prom­ise. Euro­pean reg­u­la­tors have al­ready in­tro­duced so­phis­ti­cated mon­i­tor­ing and sur­veil­lance pro­grams, blocked mar­ket ac­cess to coun­tries with a record of illegal fish­ing, pe­nalised Euro­pean rogue op­er­a­tors, and helped sup­port “yel­low or red carded” coun­tries re­form their fish­eries laws.

The EU, Ja­pan, and the US would be even more ef­fec­tive if they aligned their poli­cies to pre­vent crim­i­nals from ac­cess­ing their mar­kets and en­abled le­git­i­mate op­er­a­tors to ben­e­fit from a “su­per­charged” level of ac­cess. Work­ing to­gether could en­able the use of af­ford­able, so­phis­ti­cated tech­nol­ogy for seafood trace­abil­ity – data and in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing that helps pin­point ex­actly where seafood comes from, and when and by whom it was caught. Such ef­forts – for ex­am­ple, the elec­tronic doc­u­men­ta­tion scheme for the At­lantic bluefin tuna catch– rep­re­sent one of the most ef­fec­tive tools to elim­i­nate il­licit fish­ing.

Elim­i­nat­ing rogue fish­ing will help re­plen­ish marine life and se­cure food and liveli­hoods for bil­lions of peo­ple. This must be ac­com­pa­nied by in­creased ef­forts, from the Arc­tic to the Antarc­tic, to pro­tect key species af­fected by fish­ing prac­tices and es­tab­lish fully pro­tected marine re­serves or “re­gen­er­a­tion zones” to help re­stock and re­store habi­tats. Coun­tries must also en­act and i mple­ment laws end­ing over­fish­ing within do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional wa­ters.

Illegal, un­re­ported, and un­reg­u­lated fish­ing is a prob­lem that can be solved through lead­er­ship, ac­tion, and in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion. We are pleased to see Chile – which is host­ing this year’s Our Ocean Con­fer­ence – demon­strate lead­er­ship and com­mit­ment to ac­tion by rat­i­fy­ing the PSMA and stand­ing up to il­licit fish­ing oper­a­tions. We re­main op­ti­mistic that oth­ers will con­tinue to take the steps needed to end the scourge of rogue fish­ing and work to­gether to re­gen­er­ate ocean life glob­ally.

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