Illegal fishing and high-seas fisheries
Use of banned gear, operating in restricted areas most common violations--information gaps widespread
One major problem often associated with overcapacity in fishing fleets is illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
IUU fishing occurs in all capture fisheries and includes a range of illicit activities: fishing without permission or out of season; using outlawed types of fishing gear; disregarding catch quotas; or non-reporting and underreporting catch weights and species.
According to an FAO paper presented at this week's technical consultation, IUU fishing is increasing in both intensity and scope, and is seriously undermining national and regional efforts to sustainably manage fisheries.
The most common IUU fishing violations, according to the report, involve the use of illegal gear, followed by disregard for established fishing seasons, fishing in closed areas, and catches of illegal or undersized species.
Information gaps hinder efforts
Sustainable management of marine resources hinges on the acquisition of complete and reliable fisheries data, and failure to secure these data cripples efforts to facilitate management, FAO's report said.
Eighty-two countries responded to a survey conducted by FAO for the report, many of which characterized their national catch statistics as being comprehensive.
Forty-nine countries, or around 76% of those responding to the survey, indicated that they maintain comprehensive records of the fishing vessels they register, and 32 reported that they avoid registering vessels with a history of IUU fishing.
Almost all the countries surveyed said they require vessels fishing within their national jurisdictions to have their express authorization.
Sixty-three percent indicated that they know the positions of most of the fishing vessels operating in their waters and can determine the levels of catches they take using vessel-provided information.
However, the study also shows that while a majority of the countries (82%) require ships flying their flags and fishing outside their national boundaries to have proper authorization before doing so, just 61% of the coastal states that responded to the survey actual verify that authorization when granting permission to foreign ships to fish in their national waters.
Open season on the high seas?
Of the 31 countries surveyed who conduct high-seas fishing, 18 said that they regularly report catch data either to FAO or to the appropriate regional fisheries bodies. Eleven countries indicated they do not make any information regarding their high-seas catches available.
"This goes to underline the extent of unreported high seas fishing and the current lack of implementation of adequate reporting mechanisms by a large number of high seas fishing nations," the FAO study noted.
The survey concluded that while some controls are in place, fewer than 50% of countries are exerting effective control over high-seas fishing vessels flying their flags.
Growing intergovernmental cooperation
Other FAO papers presented during the consultation stressed the important and growing contribution that regional fishery bodies (RFBs) -- intergovernmental organizations that manage shared fisheries resources in a given area -- are making to anti-IUU fishing efforts.
Many such bodies are putting an expanding range of measures into play to address the problem, FAO noted, adding that five RFBs report that those measures are already helping reduce species-specific IUU fishing in their areas of jurisdiction.
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