New tools in the IUU battle
A fundamental strategy countries can use to control illegal fishing is to acquire detailed, real-time information on the positions and movements of fishing vessels operating in their national waters.
This information can be gathered in a number of ways, ranging from after-the-fact reviews of ship logbooks to mandatory radio position reporting to the real-time tracking of fishing boats via satellite.
FAO research shows that reviews of logbook records are still the most common means used by countries to check on fishing vessel activity, followed closely by active patrolling on fishing grounds.
According to Andrew Smith, a Senior Fishing Industry Officer at FAO, conventional surveillance and enforcement carries a high price tag.
"Cost-effective alternatives to maintaining expensive surface and air surveillance on fishing grounds need to be developed and implemented, especially for poorer countries," he said.
A non-binding international plan of action to combat IUU fishing, drafted and endorsed by 110 FAO member countries in 2001, recommends real-time monitoring and surveillance for detection of violations as essential to control the problem.
Stationing human observers onboard fishing boats and installing satellite monitoring systems (also known as VMS systems) that report on ship movements and positions are two essential approaches to encouraging improved monitoring and surveillance.
VMS and observer programmes have been implemented to some extent in just under half the countries participating in a recent FAO survey, conducted to develop a picture of steps being taken around the world to combat IUU fishing.
And the use of VMS systems is on the increase, FAO's report noted. The implementation of VMS monitoring in new fisheries or the expansion of existing VMS coverage were the most common improvements to fishing oversight reported by countries.
Out of the 82 countries that responded to FAO's survey, 60% indicated they use logbook reviews to monitor fishing boat positions in their national waters. Fifty-six percent use aerial and surface patrols in areas of known fishing activity, 45% use VMS systems to some extent, 45% have programmes that place observers on some fishing vessels, and 41% require boats to radio in their positions.
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