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Oslo hosts the First Meeting to the Parties of the FAO Port State Measures Agreement

FAO Assistant Director-General, Fisheries and Aquaculture Árni M. Mathiesen and Norwegian Fisheries Minister Per Sandberg welcome Palau’s President Tommy Remengesau to the opening day ceremonies.
Norway’s capital Oslo plays host to the first meeting of the parties.

The Norwegian capital plays host this week to the parties of the FAO Port State Measures Agreement to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported ad Unregulated Fishing.

The world’s first treaty designed to combat illegal fishing went into effect almost one year ago – on 5 June 2016. It now has 46 parties to the Agreement – with the 28 member countries of the European Union counting as a single party. Japan and Montenegro will soon bring that number to 48, when they become full parties in mid-June.

The week-long meeting in Norway is the first meeting of the parties to the Port State Measures Agreement, and is expected to define responsibilities of concerned states, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and other international bodies. The week is divided into the First Meeting of the Parties 29-31 May and the ad hoc Working Group to be established under Article 21 of Port State Measures, to be held 1-2 June.

Speaking at Monday’s opening ceremony, FAO Assistant Director-General, Fisheries and Aquaculture Árni M. Mathiesen said, “The treaty signal a real sea change in the international community’s commitment to combat IUU fishing in a  concerted and joint manner.”

The opening of the meeting was attended by H.E. the President of the Republic of Palau, Mr. Tommy Remengesau, H.E. the Minister of Fisheries of the Kingdom of Norway, Mr. Per Sandberg, and the FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mr. Árni M. Mathiesen.

In his opening address, President Tommy Remengesau of Palau emphasized the importance of issues related to illegal fishing and the need for countries to work together to combat it. He noted that the issue was of such critical importance that he felt the need to fly half-way around the world to attend this meeting and work towards the joint success of the FAO Port State Measures Agreement.

As a small island developing state with a huge ocean area surrounding it, Palau is particularly vulnerable to IUU fishing. President Remengesau noted that in his country, estimates of what is being lost each year to illegal fishing reach as high as billions of dollars. This is a situation shared by many other small island developing states in the region.

FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture staff Alicia Mosteiro, Lorenzo Coppola and Matthew Camilleri prepare for the meeting.
President Tommy Remengesau of Palau addressed the Opening of the meeting, noting that Port State Measures is crucial for island countries like his, estimated to be losing billions of dollars to illegal fishing.

In first-day discussions, several countries mentioned similar challenges they faced with IUU fishing, also noting that such activities were costing them millions or billions of dollars each year. Participants agreed that the fight against IUU fishing is not only crucial to achieving sustainable fisheries management for the future, but also of critical importance on an economic level for affected fishing nations.

Monday’s discussion touched upon many of the challenges faced for those countries that are working to become a party to the treaty and other countries that are already parties, and are working to meet their Port State Measures responsibilities.

Discussion raised the issue of what a lengthy process becoming party to the treaty can be. For example, the Russian Federation expressed its interest in becoming a party to the treaty, but emphasized that the country needs to adapt several laws in order to be able to comply with the agreement, and that this would take time. Other countries are currently in the process and the complexities and assistance required should be fully understood by organizations and partners assisting in this process.

A challenge raised by several Pacific small island developing states, were the resource demands required in order to implement Port State Measures. These demands were primarily divided into three categories: funds, manpower and prioritization. This is particularly challenging for island countries with small land masses, and wide swaths of ocean territory that must be controlled. Clearly, some of these nations will be dependent on assistance in some form to be able to implement the measures.

Related to this issue, a number of member states stressed the need to prioritize regular and consistent exchanges of information as a crucial characteristic of the agreement. Another crucial tool mentioned in discussions was the need to strengthen the Global Record.

While the objectives of the FAO Port State Measures Agreement are seen as crucial to the fight against illegal fishing, participants recognize by all that Port State Measures is a complicated agreement to implement in a practical way. It will require alignment of laws and regulations in a number of participating countries, and its full implementation will take time and political support.

Nevertheless, participants at this First Meeting of the Parties to the FAO Port State Measures Agreement are generally optimistic that, although difficult, this can be achieved. There is also general  agreement that the benefits of a wide implementation of the agreement will be highly beneficial to the world.

Taking place only a week prior to the UN Ocean Conference, this week’s discussions in Oslo are timely and important as international attention focuses on how to achieve the objective of SDG 14.

Opening sessions of the Oslo Meeting
FAO’s Árni M. Mathiesen, “The treaty signal a real sea change in the international community’s commitment to combat IUU fishing in a concerted and joint manner.”
Mr. Vladimir Belyaev, the Russian representative noted the Russian Federation’s progress in becoming a party to the treaty, which includes the need to adapt several laws in order to be able to comply with the agreement.
Norwegian Minister of Fisheries Sandberg, President Remengesau of Palau, and FAO Assistant Director-General Mathiesen.
Oslo’s harbour

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