FAO project helps countries close ports to pirate fishers, but additional support required
Rome, 24 June 2008 - FAO today appealed to donor countries for US$1 million to support a project designed to help developing countries deny port access to boats involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
'In the developing world, fishing plays a crucial role in reinforcing household food security, improving nutrition, and providing income. In light of rising world food prices and growing concern over the wellbeing of some wild fish stocks, we can afford less than ever to allow IUU fishing to impact these communities,' FAO Assistant-Director General for Fisheries, Ichiro Nomura, said at a briefing session with donor countries today.
The funds would be used to finance an ongoing FAO project launched in 2005 when the UN agency developed a Model Scheme for stronger 'port state measures' that could be adopted by countries in order to combat IUU fishing.
Port State measures include activities such as undertaking inspections of documentation, catches and equipment when boats land to take on fuel and supplies or offload fish or requiring vessels to make activity reports before entering port. Vessels found to be involved in IUU fishing can be denied docking rights, causing considerable financial losses to their owners. Such measures are among the most-effective means of preventing the import, transhipment or laundering of illegally caught fish.
IUU fishing is particularly problematic in the developing world, where limited funds and expertise mean that oversight of fishing activities in coastal waters is often lax and port controls are weak. Developing countries are targeted by IUU fishers because they provide convenient entry points for illegal catches.
"These countries need exposure to state-of-the art practices, training for their line officials, and to establish better lines of communication at the regional level to share information on offenders and harmonize actions,' said Mr Nomura.
To meet these needs, FAO initiated a series of regional workshops in order to assess the status of port state measures in different parts of the world, identify ways regions might incorporate components from FAO's Model Scheme, and promote greater harmonization of port state measures. The workshops are targeted to port inspectors, fisheries authorities, legal experts, foreign affairs officials and customs officers.
Nomura added that momentum is building towards the adoption in the near future of a legally binding international agreement on port state measures based on the FAO Model Scheme, lending additional urgency to the need to build national capacities for implementing effective port state measures.
'The workshops will allow countries to hit the ground running when the international agreement comes into force,' he said.
Successful outcomes in five regions
To date five regional port state measures workshops have been held: the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Mediterranean, southern Africa and Southeast Asia.
In all five regions regional cooperation on port state measures has deepened as a result. In the case of the Mediterranean workshop a regional scheme on port state measures was generated and subsequently adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean.
Additional national-level workshops were held in Mauritania and Senegal in June 2008 with follow-up sessions scheduled for July 2008.
FAO has received numerous requests from other regional blocs for additional workshops and would like to organize at least six more by 2010 in the Near East, the Caribbean, West Africa, South Asia, Central America and South America.
'These workshops are giving countries who have long struggled with the problem of illegal fishing new tools that they are already using to deal with the problem,' Mr Nomura said. 'To continue this effort and span the globe via more workshops an additional US$1 million is required, and we are calling on the international community to help.'
Binding treaty on the horizon
FAO's appeal comes during a Technical Consultation being held this week at the UN agency's Rome headquarters in which country representatives and experts are working on a draft text for a binding international agreement that would require parties to implement a minimum standard for port state measures.
The need for a binding instrument has been widely acknowledged in international fora including the United Nations General Assembly and the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI). The outcome of this week's consultation will be reported to COFI in 2009.