The global fishing sector differs significantly from its merchant vessel counterpart in that it lacks the transparency and regulation that has been developed in the merchant sector. This lack of transparency and regulation is considered by many to be a major enabler of IUU fishing and so improving that transparency to combat all aspects of IUU fishing is the key purpose of the Global Record.
IUU fishing remains one of the greatest threats to sustainable fisheries and those whose lives and livelihoods depend on them. The global IUU extraction is estimated to be worth between US$10 and US$23 billion (11-26 million tonnes) globally (see Estimating the Worldwide Extent of Illegal Fishing). Clearly the ability to counter this illegal activity is dependent on both maritime control and the overall strength of governance in coastal states but above all else, the ability and willingness of States to share relevant information is the single factor that can have the greatest impact. If information sharing and collaboration are improved then the perpetrators of IUU fishing will have far less freedom to undertake their illegal enterprise. It is in this context that the Global Record becomes so important.
Monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) agencies the world over are constantly seeking new and integrated tools to combat this problem. The most recent initiatives include the 'Port State Measures Agreement' (PSMA) to combat IUU fishing and the agreed 'Voluntary Guidelines for Flag State Performance'. While these are essential additions to the strategic framework to combat IUU fishing, they will never achieve their full potential impact without a more transparent environment in which to operate. The proposed Global Record can help create that environment by providing an up-to-date information picture and in doing so, act as a force-multiplier to these and other tools and initiatives employed in the fight against IUU fishing. The fact that IUU fishing has continued to flourish is evidence that existing tool and measurers alone are not enough. To be effective, these measures need to be employed as a package, in a collaborative environment and supported by a comprehensive information picture that enables accurate decision-making and maximum effect. No such information source currently exists.
Eventually, a robust Global Record should become a ‘one stop shop’ for access to a wide range of fishing vessel related data and the most important global asset in linking the various tools and measures employed to combat IUU fishing.