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On World Fisheries Day, FAO and the Holy See call for an end to human trafficking and forced labour in the fishing sector

21 November marks World Fisheries Day, celebrating a profession and a way of life that supports the livelihoods of 1 out of every 10 people on the planet
Fisheries and aquaculture provides opportunities for gainful employment. This is especially relevant for developing countries, which now account for 60% of the volume of international fish trade, but there is a need for international collaboration to ensure decent work along the seafood value chain
Stronger port controls for fishing vessels are a key element of the Port State Measures Agreement . Unfortunately, many vessels involved in IUU fishing are also linked to instances of forced labour, slave labour, smuggling and other illegal activities

To celebrate World Fisheries Day on 21 November, FAO and the Holy See will jointly organize an event aimed at focusing international attention on the need to improve working conditions in the fisheries sector.

Entitled The violation of human rights within the fishing sector and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the event held at FAO Headquarters in Rome will call on member countries, international organizations, fisherfolk organizations and industry to work together to guarantee decent work to a sector estimated to support the livelihoods of every one in ten people on the planet.

World Fisheries Day was founded by fisherfolk communities in 1998  as a way to celebrate what is for many not only a profession, but a way of life. Fish are among the most widely traded food commodities, totaling 135 billion USD in 2015.

Developing countries are key to global fish trade, having increased their share of trade from just 37% of total volume in 1976 to 60% in 2015.

Yet, at the same time, fishing is one of the world’s most dangerous professions. The industry is too often lacking adequate labour regulation, and fishing vessels have been associated with instances of labour abuses, trafficking, forced labour and other abuses of fishers. The same industry that offers so many opportunities to coastal communities in developing countries too often leads to victimization of the most vulnerable.

FAO has long been involved in working alongside member countries to improve conditions in fisheries and aquaculture. The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, the Voluntary Guidelines for Small-scale Fisheries and the recent entry into force of the FAO Port State Measures Agreement  - the first internationally negotiated treaty aimed at eliminating IUU fishing – are all steps in the right direction. But more is needed.

“We are very pleased to coorganize this event with the Holy See on the occasion of World Fisheries Day,” said Árni M. Mathiesen, Assistant Director-General of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department. “FAO, alongside the International Labor Organization, fisherfolk associations, labour unions, civil society organizations and the seafood industry, is increasingly involved in ensuring not only the environmental sustainability of the seafood chain, but its socioeconomic sustainability as well. FAO and its partners want to ensure that fish reaching consumers’ plates have been harvested while respecting the social and labour conditions of fisherfolk and processors along the value chain. The Holy See is an important partner for us in helping to get the message out to the widest possible audience about the need to work together for decent work in the fisheries sector.”

FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department’s Deputy-Director, Audun Lem, also appreciates the collaboration with the Holy See, and the timing of the event. “Coming off of a successful event we just organized in Spain, the Vigo Dialogue on decent work in fisheries and aquaculture, this FAO-Holy See event helps amplify the messages coming through in those discussions:  that it is time for all partners to work together to end labour abuses in this sector. The Vigo Dialogue was an extremely open discussion and sharing of views between the multiple partners – including countries, industry, retailers, labour unions, fisherfolk associations and CSOs – all seeking solutions to stop instances of slavery and labour abuse in the fisheries sector. The partners asked for increasing collaboration with FAO and ILO to lead these efforts. The seafood value chain is extremely long, complex and international, so we know we face numerous challenges, but we are also confident that strong commitment and collaboration by all players will help us call an end to these practices.”

At the 21 November event, on the day dedicated to the men and women around the world who depend on fisheries for their livelihoods, FAO and the Holy See are jointly calling for an end to this form of modern-day slavery, and a commitment to more transparency and collaboration of fisheries operations to ensure good working conditions to those working in fisheries.

For the first time ever, an annual message delivered on this day to fishermen and fisherwomen by the Holy See will be delivered directly from FAO.

The event, held 21 November 11:00-12:30 CET,  will be available via webcasting.  You can see the programme here, also in French and Spanish.

You can also follow the event via Twitter @FAOFish or through the hashtag #WorldFisheriesDay.

For additional  information on the issue, you can listen to an FAO podcast ‘Slavery at Sea’, listen to UN Radio interviews with FAO’s Uwe Barg about decent work in fisheries and aquaculture, and read the new FAO Scoping study on decent work and employment in fisheries and aquaculture: Issues and actions for discussion and programming.

The international community is working closely together to help combat IUU fishing, and entry into force of the Port State Measures Agreement in June 2016 was an important first step
The Holy See delivers an annual message to fishermen and fisherwomen worldwide on the occasion of World Fisheries Day. For the first time ever, the Holy See will deliver this annual message from FAO, calling for an end to labour abuses and forced labour in the fishing sector
Over the past decades, consumers have become more confident that the fish reaching their plates has been harvested in an environmentally sustainable manner. But now those same consumers are asking for guarantees that their seafood has not been harvested through forced labour or slave labour – an issue that has been receiving increasing media attention in recent years
Fish are among the most widely traded food commodities, totaling 135 billion USD in 2015, and fish trade offers significant opportunities for developing countries. FAO and the Holy See believe that ensuring decent work in the sector can be achieved through international collaboration
From Rome, FAO is pleased to be celebrating World Fisheries Day with the Holy See and partners, and calling for concerted action to ensure decent work for all those working in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors


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