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A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
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21 November 2016 


World Fisheries Day

The violation of human rights within the fishing sector and Illegal,
Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing


I am delighted to welcome all of you to this special event to mark World Fisheries Day.

Today, FAO strongly joins the Holy See in urging an end to the violation of human rights within the fishing sector.

A message that extends our call to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, IUU fishing.

World Fisheries Day was established by fisherfolk associations to celebrate a profession that supports the livelihoods of 1 in every 10 people on the planet.

Fisheries and aquaculture offer crucial opportunities, particularly in developing countries.

They create employment, build strong coastal communities, and provide food security and nutrition to vulnerable populations.

Fish are among the most widely traded food commodities worldwide, totalling 135 billion US Dollars in export revenues in 2015.

And developing countries are key players.

They have increased their share from 37 percent of total volume of international fish trade in 1976 to 60 percent in 2015.

Fish nowadays provides more net revenue to developing countries than rice, meat and sugar combined.

Sadly, the same industry that offers so many opportunities also victimizes the most vulnerable.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that every year an average of 24 000 fishermen and women lose their lives while at work.

We have seen increasing media attention on human abuses in the sector, in both developed and developing countries.

These include labour abuse, forced labour, trafficking, child labour and slavery.

FAO and the Holy See are calling for collaboration between all partners to work together in order to end human rights abuses along the entire fisheries value chain.

This includes countries, international organizations, fisherfolk associations, industry, retailers, labour unions, civil society organizations, and consumers.

This will be challenging, but many international tools are in place to help us in this process.

Last year, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

Since then, many supporting instruments and guidelines have been adopted.

This includes the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Small-Scale Fisheries, aimed at strengthening human rights for the small-scale fishing communities.

We are also pleased to see that last week, the Work in Fishing Convention 188 of the International Labour Organization received its 10th ratification.

This means that the Convention will enter into force in November 2017. And we urge other countries to join this powerful instrument.

This is important to combat unacceptable forms of work in the sector, including forced labour and child labour.

We congratulate ILO, and look forward to partnering with the Organization and member countries to make a true difference in the working conditions of fishing communities.

Ladies and gentlemen

Another key instrument is the FAO Port State Measures Agreement, which entered into force last June.

This is the first-ever binding international treaty designed to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

As we know, vessels involved in IUU fishing are often linked to trafficking, labour abuses and slavery.

Port inspections determined by the Agreement will contribute to ensuring that human rights are not being violated.

As of today, 36 signatories representing 63 countries have adhered to the Port State Measures Agreement.

Let me congratulate all of them, and urge all other countries to join this global effort.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The distress migration we have been seen in recent years has strong links to forced labour and poor working conditions, in addition to weakening coastal fisheries communities.

For this reason, FAO is developing the Blue Hope Initiative in the Mediterranean region, in order to strengthen livelihoods in coastal communities.

The Government of Italy and the International Center for Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies (CIHEAM) are among our main partners.

This project was first presented to Pope Francis, who highlighted the importance of improving solidarity between countries and communities.

Fisheries is a complex sector, with extremely long and globalized value chains.

Minister Susi of Indonesia has recently observed that irregularities and illegalities are widespread across the entire fishing sector.   

We are fully aware of the challenges we face. But we have the conditions to address them.

We have to guarantee that the seafood reaching our plates has been produced not only in an environmentally sustainable manner; but also in a manner that supports the socioeconomic well-being of those who harvest and process it.

We count on strong political commitments. 

Together, we can end this form of modern-day slavery in the fishing sector.

FAO looks forward to making this a reality.

Thank you for your attention.