Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to welcome you all to Thailand and to this workshop that addresses a very important and critical fisheries issue: illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. All fisheries managers and policy-makers are aware of the global and deleterious impacts of IUU fishing and the urgent need for countries and regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements (RFMOs) to develop plans of action to combat IUU fishing.
The convening of this seventh workshop in a series around the world has involved a considerable team effort on the part of staff from the Fisheries Department in Rome and counterparts from the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. To all those people who have worked to facilitate this event, and especially those from Bangkok, please accept my special thanks.
IUU fishing occurs in all capture fisheries: in inland fisheries and in marine fisheries both within exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and on the high seas. It has been a focus of attention in FAO for many years.
However, over the past five years, the issue of IUU fishing has become more prominent and taken on a sharper and more elevated international focus. It has been addressed in many FAO fora including the Committee on Fisheries, the FAO Council, the FAO Conference and by meetings of Ministers. Furthermore, different aspects of IUU fishing have been the subject of intensive debate and analysis at FAO expert and technical consultations.
IUU fishing has also been discussed at length within the United Nations General Assembly and elsewhere. From these deliberations one thing is very clear: IUU fishing and its impact on the long-term sustainable use of fisheries are of great concern and the issue is well entrenched on the international fisheries agenda.
Most of you know that IUU fishing runs counter to sound fisheries management because it undermines the basis for sustainable resource utilization. Principally for this reason in 2001 FAO Members, after a short period of negotiation, adopted within the framework of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, a voluntary instrument known as the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA–IUU).
The IPOA–IUU is broad in scope. It seeks to combat IUU fishing in a holistic, comprehensive and structured manner. The IPOA–IUU proposes the use of a range of different measures that can be applied flexibly at the national and regional levels against IUU fishing.
The IPOA–IUU contains a range of different types of measures, or “tools”, that can be applied by countries, individually or in combination, against IUU fishing. The standards and practices contained in the IPOA-IUU are geared to surveilling and monitoring fishing vessels so that IUU fishing can be curbed and fisheries utilized in a sustainable manner. At the heart of the IPOA-IUU is the implementation of more effective Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) including the mandatory use of Vessel Monitoring Systems.
These measures are intended to be implemented by governments and other stakeholders, particularly industry, fishing communities and, as appropriate, non-governmental organizations (NGOs). FAO’s role in this process is to promote and galvanize action against IUU fishing and the activities of IUU fishers rather than intervening directly in the implementation process.
Significantly, paragraphs 25 to 27 of the IPOA–IUU call on States to elaborate national plans of action to combat IUU fishing (NPOAs–IUU), as soon as possible, but not later than June 2004. The NPOAs–IUU are vital instruments in the struggle against IUU fishing because they are the vehicles by which the IPOA–IUU is implemented or given “life”.
Unfortunately, less than 15 NPOAs–IUU had been developed and disseminated prior to June 2004 and as at June 2006 only about 25 countries have developed NPOAs–IUU. As far as FAO is aware, no country at this workshop has developed NPOAs–IUU.
According to information available to FAO, the incidence of IUU fishing is increasing rather than stabilizing or abating. In 2003 the FAO Conference adopted Resolution 6/2003 concerning progress with the implementation of the IPOA–IUU. The Resolution noted, inter alia, the continuing high and growing incidence of IUU fishing and related activities and a lack of political will and capacity by some governments to deal effectively with such fishing. The Resolution also noted a lack of commitment by some States with respect to IUU fishing to meet their obligations under international law. For these and other reasons, the FAO Conference urged States and RFMOs to take direct and indirect action against IUU fishing on all fronts.
Subsequently, in March 2005, the Rome Declaration on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing was adopted by the FAO Ministerial Meeting on Fisheries. It noted, inter alia, the harmful and worldwide consequences of IUU fishing on the sustainability of fisheries, on the conservation of marine living resources and marine biodiversity as a whole and on the economies of developing countries and their efforts to develop sustainable fisheries management. Among other matters, the Ministers called on countries to adopt NPOAs–IUU and for RFMOs to institute regional plans and initiatives to combat IUU fishing. Through workshops such as this one, FAO is attempting to fill a capacity gap by working with countries to enhance skills so that they will be better placed to prepare, disseminate and implement their NPOAs–IUU.
Finally, we should recognize that IUU fishing is large in size, destructive in practice, global in character, extremely dynamic and multi-faceted. For these reasons, there is no room for complacency. We need to widen and deepen our efforts to ensure that IUU fishing is not permitted to continue or to spread further and that the IPOA–IUU is implemented fully, expeditiously and effectively. The preparation and implementation of NPOAs–IUU is a first and critical step in the process.
In an informal and stimulating environment here in Bangkok, I am confident that you will have a productive and successful workshop. I urge you to participate actively and when you return home, I encourage you to do all within your capabilities to develop and put in place a NPOA–IUU. Remember, this is important not only for fish stocks today but also in the longer-term for food security and the protection of livelihoods.
Finally, I would like to acknowledge the funding support for this workshop. It is being funded by the Government of Japan’s trust fund project (GCP/INT/942/JPN) entitled “Promotion of sustainable fisheries: Support for the Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development: Phase II”. Without this generous support from the Government of Japan it would have been very difficult to hold this workshop.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, for your attention.
I hereby declare the workshop open.