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Director-General hails landmark treaty as beginning of end for rogue fishing

Capacity-building resources needed to ensure Port State Measures Agreement is a boon for sustainable fisheries

Photo courtesy of Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF)
The Antillas Reefer was caught fishing illegally off the coast of Mozambique. It has been converted into a patrol vessel.

1 June 2017, Oslo -The Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, an international treaty aimed at stopping rogue fishing practices, gives the world "all the instruments necessary to achieve our goal," FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said here.

The PSMA will soon have 48 parties - counting all 28 members of the European Union as one - with Japan and Montenegro about to join after having deposited their instruments of adhesion. This gives the one-year-old treaty added heft, Graziano da Silva said Wednesday, adding that he was very confident more countries will join in the near future.

He spoke at the first Meeting of the Parties, hosted by the Government of Norway to hammer out details regarding the implementation of the PSMA.

The FAO-brokered treaty restricts port access to fishing vessels that fail to comply with a set of rules, including proof that they have proper operating licenses and transparent disclosure of the species and quantity of fish caught. The PSMA represents the capstone of years of diplomatic effort to combat the scourge of IIU fishing, which amounts to up to 26 million tonnes, worth some $23 billion a year, and represents a huge threat to all efforts to bolster sustainable fishing in the world's oceans.

Parties to the PSMA currently account for more than two-thirds of the global fish trade.

Focus on implementation

The Oslo meeting is an opportunity for parties to define the responsibilities of port states, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and other international bodies, including FAO.

Protocols under discussion include how to assure the proper real-time exchange and publication of information, since port states must signal eventual violations to a ship's flag state as well as to regional authorities.

Additional technical requirements of developing states will also be addressed. An ad hoc working group will meet later this week to make recommendations on the establishment of suitable funding mechanisms to make sure all members, including Small Island Developing States located amid some of the world's most attractive fishing areas, can carry out their tasks.

The PSMA treaty itself demands that members contribute to the capacity-building effort required to make the agreement work.

"This is a crucial moment," Graziano da Silva said, noting that FAO itself has already committed $1.5 million of its own funds for that effort. He publicly thanked Norway, Sweden and the United States of America for their confirmed contributions to the programme.

Benefits of the PSMA

Designed to prevent fishing vessels from landing illegal catches, the PSMA is part of a global effort to safeguard global marine natural resources, Graziano da Silva said.

He also noted a number of additional benefits it will generate, notably in promoting the sustainability of marine fisheries, improving the livelihoods and food security of coastal communities and reducing illegal activities often linked to IUU fishing, such as trafficking, labor abuses and slavery.

The PSMA also represents a large contribution toward achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14, which expressly calls for an end to IUU fishing by 2020.

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