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29. Three case studies were presented during the Consultation by Experts from the Cook Islands, Cyprus and Panama, based on guidelines provided by the FAO Secretariat. These guidelines are attached as Appendix G.

Cook Islands

30. Mr Joshua Mitchell and Mr Garth Broadhead presented a case study on the Cook Islands registry. The paper is attached as Appendix H. This case study aimed to highlight policies, legislation and methodologies employed within the Cook Islands with respect to the registration of vessels, and in particular fishing vessels. The study explained the measures that the Cook Islands has in place, following registration, to meet its flag State responsibilities and thus effectively exercise jurisdiction and control in administrative, technical and social matters over ships flying the Cook Islands' flag. In addition, the study reviewed the problems that countries such as the Cook Islands faced in dealing with non-compliant flag vessels, and outlined the measures or sanctions imposed on vessels that infringed the terms of the registration and relevant fishing authorization.

31. In discussion following the presentation, the Cook Islands Experts advised the Consultation that precautions are taken to ensure that high standards of confidentiality are maintained with respect to data and information provided in connection with the registration of fishing vessels. Persons registering vessels on the register are given this assurance and information is not passed to third parties.

32. With respect to chartering arrangements, and recognizing that these arrangements probably provided the greatest potential for IUU fishing, the Cook Islands Experts noted that most of the chartered vessels on the register are based within the country. As a result, it was reasonably easy to undertake the necessary inspections when the vessels were in port unloading their catch.

33. The Consultation was advised that there were only three demise chartered vessels on the Cook Islands register that operated on the high seas, out of a total of 13 high seas vessels. They were required to provide declarations with respect to the fish caught, the geographical area of operation and so on. Limitations are placed on the operational areas of vessels that fish on the high seas so as to avoid conflict with RFMOs, to which the Cook Islands are not party. The Cook Islands Experts advised that catch certification was currently in place operating under the present requirements of the Cook Islands (and where possible the regulations of the destination State) but noted, particularly in relation to Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements, that the issue of catch certification was being revised and appropriate regulations drafted.

34. Concerning the matter of observers, the Cook Islands Experts advised the Consultation that the placement of observers on fishing vessels was a condition of registration. These observers fulfilled both a scientific and compliance role and efforts were underway to strengthen their role. Training for observers was provided by South Pacific regional organizations.

35. The Cook Islands Experts noted that, as a consequence of establishing a responsible register on terms decided by the Cook Islands Government, a number of important longer-term capacity building and investment benefits had resulted. In this respect, establishment of the register had yielded very positive developments for the country.


36. Mr Gabriel Gabrielides presented a case study concerning registration of fishing vessels in Cyprus. The paper is attached as Appendix I. The paper noted that two different government departments are responsible for the registration of fishing vessels. The main register for all vessels, known as the Cyprus Register of Ships (CRS), created in 1963, is maintained by the Department of Merchant Shipping. All fishing vessels greater than 15 gross tons (GT) are registered on the CRS. Smaller fishing vessels are registered on the Register for Small Fishing Vessels which is maintained by the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research. This Register includes about 600 local fishing boats. The CRS is an open register and attracts a great number of foreign vessels, making it the sixth biggest in the world with a merchant fleet exceeding 26 million GT.

37. In recent years, much work has been undertaken to transform the image of the Cyprus flag. New and tougher legislation has been enacted and new international conventions have been ratified. The policy for the registration of fishing vessels has been modified after close cooperation of the two relevant departments. As a result, it had been decided to deny the registration of fishing vessels that did not belong to Cypriot nationals. Furthermore, in the case of foreign-owned fishing vessels already on the CRS, the policy was to encourage these vessels to change flag. Fisheries legislation has been streamlined to allow for the monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) of fishing vessels irrespective of where they fish in the world. As a result of this modification, foreign-owned vessels cannot be granted an authorization to fish and consequently, if they continue flying the Cyprus flag, they are fishing illegally. However, the CRS still includes foreign fishing vessels that are registered on a "parallel-out" basis (i.e. the vessels fly another flag and not the Cyprus flag). This issue was currently under review.

38. In discussion following his presentation, the Expert referred to the recent policy resulting in the reduction of foreign fishing vessels on the Cypriot register from 108 to 10. He added that about half of the departing vessels had been de-registered while the others "paralleled out". The latter vessels were believed to be fishing under licenses of another country. The remaining 10 vessels were fishing illegally, and there was no indication where they were operating. The Expert stated that Cyprus was trying to locate them, and intended to strike them from the CRS.

39. It was believed that this situation highlighted the difficulties of locating vessels due to factors such as lack of interest by port State controllers with primary interests in safety and International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirements, and the fact that many vessels were built with the same specifications, making identification of an individual vessel difficult. The Expert noted that FAO was active in elaborating port State controls for fishing vessels.

40. As part of the process of joining the European Union (EU) and consequently being subject to its measures, the Expert stated that the policy adopted was designed to maximize EU benefits for Cypriot vessels. The intention was therefore to eliminate foreign fishing vessels from the register, which provided an impetus for recent actions by the Government. In addition, by implementing measures in relation to the register to reduce fishing capacity, the Expert noted that funds had been allocated towards scrapping registered vessels.

41. Regarding the elimination of foreign fishing vessels, the Expert pointed out that one option would have been to keep fishing vessels on the register. However, this option would have required the establishment of an elaborate inspection system which was not considered cost effective.

42. The Expert discussed amendment of the law as an element of improving control over the fishing fleet. One issue cited was the legal definition of a fishing vessel, noting that factory and support vessels had recently been included as fishing vessels in the laws of one country to extend needed control. The Expert also noted that modification of policy could be effective in some areas without formal legal amendment.

43. The potential for dual registration in "parallel-out" situations was discussed by the Consultation. However, the Expert advised that the legal requirement for such situations was that vessels must not use the Cypriot flag, and the flag State was responsible for controlling vessel activities. It was a situation of dual registration, but use of a single flag.

44. The importance of a legal requirement for fisheries authorities to give written approval prior to the registration of a fishing vessel was highlighted by the Expert. Ship owners could institute legal proceedings if the approval process was delayed pending authorization by the fisheries authorities, and there was presently no legal requirement for such approval. The Expert noted that legislative requirements specifying authorizations and approvals for the construction of fishing vessels for national registration (such as specifying fishing grounds, tonnage and technical attributes) were also considered important.

45. The Consultation noted that some open register States, in reviewing the costs and benefits of maintaining fishing vessels on their registries, have determined that the costs of meeting international obligations outweigh the financial benefits that accrue from the registration of these vessels and, as a result, have taken measures to de-register fishing vessels. However, the Consultation further noted that such vessels will migrate somewhere else. If these vessels register in States that meet their international obligations, this situation is an improvement. However, this is not always the case.


46. Mr Arnulfo Franco presented a case study concerning the Panamanian vessel registry. The paper is attached as Appendix J. The paper noted that the Panamanian registry was established in 1925. The main users of the registry were owners of vessels other than fishing vessels. Until 1998, the registry had a significant number of fishing vessels. However, as a result of various State actions (including the requirement that vessels obtain a fishing license prior to registration with the Merchant Marine), there was a mass exit of fishing vessels and the elimination of other vessels from the registry. Later, in 2001, standards were developed to prevent the entry of IUU fishing vessels onto the registry and also as a means of controlling longline fishing capacity. Concurrently, Panama developed a series of measures to tackle the problem of IUU fishing and to ensure compliance by fishing vessels on the Panamanian registry.

47. In discussion following his presentation, the Expert acknowledged that some significant problems in controlling fishing fleets on open registries stemmed from excessive bureaucratic requirements. To address increased bureaucracy and the gap between the registration of vessels in general and the control of fishing vessels, the Expert advised that a strategy had been adopted that contemplated the elaboration and implementation of an action plan on IUU fishing. This plan would include provision for the elimination of vessels without a fishing licence by the Merchant Marine authorities. It was deemed the best approach to maintain open communications with the Merchant Marine authorities and the lawyers, as legal changes required a more complex procedure.

48. The Expert advised that it was difficult to determine the physical existence of some unlicenced fishing vessels because of lack of information. In this regard, he added that one problem was that registered vessels may not in fact exist and this could not be confirmed. Another problem was that some vessels had been registered at a time when there were no laws requiring compliance. As a means of assisting with the control of fishing vessels, the Expert expressed the view that a procedure requiring vessels to submit certificates every year could help in confirming the existence of registered vessels.

49. The Expert noted that many vessels that were de-registered from the Panamanian register migrated to other open registries. However, one of these registries had been aggressive in de-registration.

50. The Expert advised the Consultation that Panamanian practice was not to licence tender vessels where transshipment was prohibited, but that there was general acceptance of licencing transshipment operations because of inspection requirements under HACCP procedures. A problem was the difficulty in verifying transshipment records as fish could have been caught during illegal operations. The registration of support vessels generated significant revenue. The Expert added that there was an initiative to designate transshipment vessels as fishing vessels so that control could be more effectively exercised. At the present time such vessels are considered as cargo vessels.

51. Since the adoption of the new policy in Panama, the Expert advised that there had been an increase in landings, reflecting in part the effectiveness of the new policy.

52. The Consultation reiterated the need to avoid using the term "flag of convenience" because there was no legal or technical definition, and this term did not reflect appropriately and accurately the situation. The Consultation took note with interest of the use of the term "flag of non-compliance" that has been adopted in CCAMLR as a possible alternative.

53. With respect to observer programmes, especially those adopted by RFMOs, the Consultation noted their value in helping control the operations of fishing fleets. National observer programmes were also important.

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