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Combating illegal fishing and strengthening seafood traceability

FAO member countries in Asia move to counter IUU threats to industry and food security

22/03/2016 Kochi, India

Seafood products are among the most widely traded food commodities in the world, with estimates for 2015 placing the value of international fish trade at US$ 130 billion, but illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) – estimated at some US$ 10 – 23 billion annually – is undermining the industry, an FAO convened workshop on IUU fishing heard today.

IUU fishing, which includes operating without authorization, harvesting protected species, using outlawed fishing gear and violating quota limits, could account for up to 26 million tonnes a year, or more than 15 percent, of the world's total annual capture fisheries output, FAO reported recently.

The growing global demand for seafood products has tremendous potential to benefit developing countries, whose share of fishery exports is currently 54 percent of the global total when measured by value and 61 percent by quantity. For many countries, fishery exports are essential to national economies. Asian countries are an example of this, with an extremely vibrant and well-developed intra-regional seafood trade.

The threat to developing countries in Asia posed by IUU fishing

While intra-regional trade in seafood is very important, the Asian capture fishery still relies on the major importing markets of the European Union and the United States, which have complex requirements for market access related to food and animal health, food safety and quality assurance, in compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

There are new market traceability requirements coming into force to eliminate IUU fish from entering the EU and US markets. While these new requirements come amid an increasing consumer demand for sustainable resource use, they also have implications for developing countries that export to the US and EU. Trade in illegal fish products threatens the livelihoods, food security and prospects for long-term growth of the seafood industry in Asia in general.

Asian countries move to counter the threat

FAO, in cooperation with INFOFISH and the Government of India, with financial support from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), is convening a capacity-building workshop on “National and regional good practices in seafood traceability in Asia to combat IUU fishing” in Kochi, India 22-24 March 2016.

The workshop brings together FAO, international experts, and 30 fisheries officials from 15 Asian countries to address the challenges and opportunities for international and intraregional trade in sustainably-sourced and labeled seafood products. The countries participating in the workshop include: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam.

“We are pleased to have this regional workshop in Kochi and to learn from the practical experiences and advice provided by workshop participants and international experts on seafood traceability,” said Victoria Chomo, FAO Fishery Industry Officer and workshop organizer. “The country recommendations and indicators developed at the workshop will be incorporated into an FAO report on good practices in national traceability systems in Asia, to be used as a self-assessment tool by FAO member countries, and to identify their further capacity building needs.”

Global measures to tackle IUU

An international instrument to counter IUU fishing is awaiting ratification. Earlier this month, the United States became the latest country to indicate its ratification of the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.

The Agreement comes into force when 25 countries or regional economic blocs have deposited their instruments of adherence with the FAO Director-General. So far, 22 instruments of adherence have been deposited by 21 countries and the European Union on behalf of its members. The Republic of Korea is the most recent country from Asia 

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