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Many RFMOs face problems of IUU fishing. As stocks decline, a number of RFMOs have adopted increasingly stringent rules to manage the fisheries for which they are responsible. Some fishing vessels comply with the stricter rules, but others choose to ignore the rules or to register in states that are not members of the RFMOs and are thus not directly bound by the rules. In this respect, the IPOA - IUU Technical Guidelines suggest that any strategy for dealing with IUU fishing should take into account that vessels of both members and non-members of RFMOs engage in IUU fishing, and should address both groups effectively. Strategies should also take into account that the inability to agree on equitable access can contribute to IUU fishing.

The IPOA - IUU addresses actions to be taken by RFMOs both indirectly under various headings and directly under the heading of RFMOs. Indirect references appear in the objective and principles of the IPOA - IUU,[63] National Plans of Action,[64] cooperation between states,[65] port State measures,[66] internationally agreed market-related measures[67] and reporting.[68]

The IPOA - IUU directly addresses actions by RFMOs, reinforcing provisions of the other post-UNCED instruments. It describes action to be taken by states through RFMOs, and by RFMOs. It repeats the obligation of non-member states to cooperate with the RFMO and not to undermine its measures - therefore giving broad effect to the decisions of the RFMO. The areas addressed by the paragraphs of the IPOA relating directly to RFMOs are: [69]

A summary description of the paragraphs in the IPOA - IUU under the above headings is elaborated in Appendix 4.

RFMOs cooperate among themselves to address many of these issues, both in meetings with other RFMOs with a similar geographical or species mandate - such as the cooperation among GFCM and ICCAT and among RFMOs with a mandate for highly migratory fish stocks, and in issue-oriented consultations. With respect to the latter, a consultation was convened in January 2002 the by the Chair of the Second Biennial Meeting of Regional Fishery Bodies or Arrangements, in cooperation with FAO, to address catch certification schemes and to review possibilities for a greater degree of coordination among fishery bodies on existing and potential schemes.[70] In addition, an expert consultation was held at FAO Headquarters, Rome in November 2002 to review port State measures to combat IUU fishing.

The IPOA - IUU has been the subject of much attention by RFMOs, with over half reporting on measures that have been taken for a report prepared for consideration by COFI in February, 2003.[71] Following is a list of measures or actions that RFMOs can take, or have taken to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing: [72]

In support of the above, information on resolutions and other decisions of some RFMOs relating to IUU fishing is provided in Appendix 5. The information was taken from publicly available sources, and is indicative of approaches and detail considered by RFMOs. It identifies the resolution or decision by title, and summarizes both the circumstances described in the preamble and the agreed measures. It summarizes the information from nine RFMOs,[76] and reports on a range of 36 resolutions and other decisions relating to IUU fishing. A significant feature is that a vast majority (25) were adopted in the years since 2000, and of those nearly half (12) have been adopted since 2002. This indicates that the IPOA - IUU may have raised awareness and through its toolbox, provided clear options for effective action. A general period of consolidation is underway, and the similarity among many resolutions reflects increasing commitment and cooperation on the part of RFMOs.

The resolutions and decisions taken by some RFMOs in relation to IUU fishing cover a range of areas. Of the RFMOs surveyed, several had taken decisions in respect of non-parties,[77] establishing criteria for a presumption of IUU fishing[78] and listing IUU fishing vessels, including those presumed to be fishing.[79] From a positive viewpoint, the practice of "white" listing, or establishing a record of vessels authorized to operate in the Area, is increasing,[80] and procedures for attaining the status of cooperating non-party have been agreed.[81]

Information bases on IUU fishing have been enhanced by resolutions relating to information on IUU catches[82] transshipments and vessel sightings,[83] establishment of a port inspection programme[84] and exchange of information.[85]

Measures against flag of convenience vessels have been adopted,[86] as well as general requirements for fishing vessels including management standards[87] and conditions for flagging.[88] One RFMO has adopted a resolution relating to "flags of non-compliance". In trade-related issues, catch documentation/trade information schemes have been adopted,[89] and a process and criteria for IUU trade restrictive measures has been identified.[90] A recommendation has been adopted to facilitate information on vessels transferring flag to avoid trade measures.[91]

Targeting businesses involved in IUU fishing, measures have been adopted to prevent laundering of catches by IUU vessels[92] to take actions against businesses involved in IUU fishing[93] and other cooperative actions with countries where the businesses are based.[94]

Working groups have been established to address more effective measures against IUU fishing.[95]

The challenge for some RFMOs consists less of the development and adoption of policies and measures against IUU fishing, than their implementation among members. This can form a considerable chasm between the objective and results. For example, RFMOs’ policies and measures on IUU fishing tend to address non-parties and open register flagging even though it is acknowledged that IUU fishing is also carried out by companies and individuals originating from the RFMOs’ parties. In developing effective measures, a balanced, holistic approach needs to be taken.

[63] Paragraphs 8 and 9.
[64] Paragraph 25.
[65] Paragraphs 28 and 51.2.
[66] Paragraphs 58.5, 62, 63 and 64.
[67] Paragraphs 68 and 73.
[68] Paragraph 87.
[69] Paragraphs 78-84.
[70] The consultation took place at IATTC Headquarters, La Jolla, USA. This initiative was taken in accordance with paragraphs 76 and 91 of the IPOA - IUU.
[71] A report prepared by FAO for the twenty-fifth session of COFI in 2003 (COFI/2003/3Rev.1) titled "Progress in the Implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and related International Plans of Action" states that more than half of RFMOs have addressed IPOA - IUU. In particular, RFMOs dealing with specific species such as tunas (IATTC and ICCAT) and salmon (NASCO and NPAFC) showed more positive approach to implementation of IPOA - IUU. IATTC created a Permanent Working Group on Fishing by Non-Parties to address IUU fishing. IATTC also agreed to establish a regional register of vessels authorized to fish in its competent area and measures to discourage landings and trade of fish caught by IUU fishing. ICCAT indicated that many of its measures were stricter than those of IPOA - IUU. ICCAT also held a special meeting on ways to combat IUU fishing in May 2002. The Council of NASCO adopted a Protocol for States not Party to the Convention for the Conservation of Salmon in the North Atlantic Ocean, calling for each Party to the Protocol to prohibit fishing for salmon beyond areas of fisheries jurisdiction. The organization also promoted exchange of information and coordinated surveillance activities. The Committee on Enforcement of NPAFC coordinated enforcement activities by its Contracting Parties for eliminating IUU fishing in its competent area. APFIC and CECAF distributed all IPOAs to member States. Also see information in Swan, J. "Summary information on the role of international fishery organizations or arrangements and other bodies concerned with the conservation and management of living aquatic resources", FAO Fisheries Circular. No. 985. Rome, FAO. 2003. 114p.
[72] The Technical Guidelines refer to many of these measures and actions as critical steps that RFMOs can take in the discussion on the role of RFMOs in addressing IUU fishing.
[73] This activity is common among RFMOs, but can take different forms, such as reporting sightings, preparing a list of IUU fishing vessels from various trade data, or developing evidentiary standards for a presumption of IUU fishing and establishing a list of vessels presumed to be engaged in IUU fishing activities. Dissemination of the information could be at all levels, including from the RFMO to members, other RFMOs or FAO.
[74] This activity is also very common among RFMOs, for example CCAMLR, CCSBT, GFCM, IATTC, ICCAT, IOTC, NAFO, NASCO, NPAFC. See Swan, J., "The Role of National Fisheries Administrations and Regional Fishery Bodies in Adopting and Implementing Measures to Combat IUU Fishing", op. cit. n. 47.
[75] As discussed in Section 3.2.3 of the IPOA - IUU Technical Guidelines, schemes adopted by ICCAT and NEAFC call upon their respective members to take action against vessels without nationality in accordance with international law. To the extent that the rules of international law regarding the permissible scope of such actions may not be entirely clear, RFMOs may wish to provide more specifically which types of actions against stateless vessels should be taken.
[81] IATTC.
[82] IATTC.
[84] IOTC.
[87] ICCAT.
[88] CCAMLR.
[90] ICCAT.
[91] ICCAT.
[93] ICCAT.
[94] ICCAT.

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