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Press Release 01/11


Rome, 2 March - More than 110 countries have adopted a new Plan of Action against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a statement released today. The voluntary agreement aims at preventing, deterring and eliminating illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, FAO said.

IUU fishing is found within and outside the exclusive economic zone (200 miles from the coast), it is not confined to high seas fisheries, FAO said. In some important fisheries, IUU fishing accounts for up to 30 percent of total catches, FAO said.

IUU fishing is blamed for overfishing of several high value fish stocks. In extreme cases, it can lead to the collapse of a fishery or seriously affect efforts to rebuild fish stocks that have been depleted.

Of particular concern are fishing vessels flying "flags of convenience" granted by countries that allow fishing vessels to operate under their flag without controlling their fishing activities.

"The Plan of Action will make it more difficult for fishing vessels to threaten the sustainability of the world's fisheries resources", said Ichiro Nomura, FAO's Assistant Director-General of the Fisheries Department.

"With this new plan, the international community has a powerful tool to fight illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Countries should ensure the primary responsibility of the flag state, and use port and market measures as well as proper sanctions to make sure that nationals do not support IUU fishing. Monitoring of vessels, sharing information between countries and international cooperation in control and surveillance will help to combat IUU fishing," Mr. Nomura added.

The International Plan of Action states that the issue of IUU fishing in world fisheries "is of serious and increasing concern. Illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing undermines efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks in all capture fisheries".

The Plan of Action calls upon states to ensure that their nationals do not support or engage in IUU fishing. No vessel should be allowed to fish unless so authorized. States should cooperate to identify those who are the operators or owners of vessels involved in IUU fishing. Measures should be taken against vessels without nationality on the high seas involved in IUU fishing.

States should avoid giving economic support or subsidies to companies, vessels or individuals involved in illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. According to FAO, excess fleet capacity and weak national fishery administration are important factors that may encourage illegal fishing.

The Plan of Action particularly stresses and promotes flag state responsibility. Countries should ensure, before they register a fishing vessel, that these vessels entitled to fly their flag do not engage in or support IUU fishing. All countries that are involved in chartering should make sure that chartered vessels do not engage in IUU fishing.

The Plan of Action also tackles the problem of 'flag hopping', the repeated and rapid changes of a vessel's flag for the purpose of circumventing conservation and management. It calls on countries to take all necessary steps to discourage the practice, including the denial of an authorization to fish.

A flag state should ensure that each vessel flying its flag and fishing in waters outside its sovereignty is authorized to fish, the Plan says.

It also calls for better cooperation, information and data sharing between countries. For this purpose, a vessel monitoring system should be established, it says.

The plan calls for strict monitoring, control and surveillance of fishing from catches, through the point of landing, to final destination. Vessels entering a port should be required to provide details of their fishing trip and quantities of fish on board. Where a port state has clear evidence that a vessel has engaged in illegal fishing, the port state should not allow the vessel to land in its port and should report the matter to the flag state of the vessel.

Severe sanctions should be enforced against vessels involved in IUU fishing. "This may include the adoption of a civil sanction regime based on an administrative penalty scheme," the agreement says.

The International Plan of Action against IUU fishing, as well as the other three International Plans of Action for Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries, for the Conservation and Management of Sharks and for the Management of Fishing Capacity, are non-binding agreements aimed at promoting more responsible fisheries practices.

According to FAO, about 47 to 50 percent of major marine fish stocks are currently fully exploited, with no room expected for further expansion. Another 15 to 18 percent are overexploited, whereas 10 percent of stocks have been depleted or are recovering from depletion. An estimated 25 to 27 percent of stocks are underexploited or moderately exploited and represent the main potential source for expansion of total capture fisheries.


For more information please contact the FAO Media-Office: 39 06 57053625.

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