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New era beckons with implementation of illegal fishing treaty

FAO chief hails Port State Measures Agreement, urges rapid action to provide technical and financial resources

Photo: ©FAO/Sia Kambou
Offloading tuna at Abidjan's main port.

11 July 2016, ROME-The Port State Measures Agreement "marks the dawn of a new era in the effort to combat illegal fishing" but rapid action is needed to make sure its implementation is effective, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today at an event held to celebrate the world's first international treaty specifically aimed at tackling Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

"FAO is working to deliver immediate support to those countries that are most in need of it," Graziano da Silva said.

Implementation of the agreement may prove challenging for some nations - especially developing and small island states - due to resource and capacity constraints, he added.

 The treaty went into force last month and more than 30 nations as well the European Union on behalf of its 28 members have acceded to the treaty. More countries have initiated the accession process.

The agreement  has an article that explicitly enjoins parties to the treaty and international organizations to provide assistance and funding. The Republic of Korea has already confirmed it will make a financial contribution, and other parties should follow suit, Graziano da Silva said.

FAO has set up an inter-regional Technical Cooperation Programme and a Global Capacity Development Umbrella Programme to support logistical, legislative and legal aspects of translating the agreement into practice.

The PSMA treaty, shepherded by FAO since 2009, requires foreign vessels to submit to inspections at any port of call and for port states to share information on violations. An improvement on prior rules requiring countries to control the activities of their own fishing fleets, the new agreement is designed to raise the cost of IUU fishing as it blocks improperly caught fish from being brought to land and entering markets.

Sustainable oceans, sustainable livelihoods

"Generations to come will recognize the importance of this achievement, your achievement," Graziano da Silva said as he gave awards to representatives of the treaty's signatories. 

"For Africa, fish are as strategic as maize. Overfishing puts sustainable food security at risk," said President Alpha Condé of the Republic of Guinea who has strongly championed the importance of fisheries to African nations. He pledged to campaign across the continent in favour of the treaty and in defense of local fishing communities.

More than half of all fish exports come from developing countries, underscoring the importance - in terms of revenue - of sustainable management practices.

It is estimated that globally IUU fishing accounts for annual catches of up to 26 million tonnes, with a value of up to $23 billion. IUU not only jeopardizes marine ecosystems but also threatens the livelihoods and food securities of millions of fishers around the world, Graziano da Silva said.

Both leaders - along with ministers and officials representing the parties that have adhered to the treaty spoke at an event held on the sidelines of the annual FAO Committee on Fisheries, which began today.

"While the agreement constitutes a powerful and cost-effective tool, it cannot eliminate IUU fishing on its own" and must be flanked by other tools and efforts, Graziano da Silva said, expressing his hope that the momentum generated by the treaty's entry into force will foster further collaboration.

The list of parties that have completed their accession to the Port State Measures Agreement is here

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