FAO helping countries fight illegal fishing in Indian Ocean
Mauritius workshop focuses on strengthening controls in ports
21 June 2007, Accra/Rome - A group of 50 participants from 13 countries in the Indian Ocean region are strategizing on how to toughen up controls in coastal ports in order to better combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing during an FAO-run workshop starting today in Mauritius (21-22 June).
The workshop comes on the heels of a three day international symposium on IUU fishing (18-20 June) organized by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) in partnership with FAO, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC).
During the symposium, participants heard firsthand from organizations such as the IOTC or the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCMLAR) about new measures they have taken in recent years against IUU fishing in the regions for which they are responsible These include enhanced "port state measures" such as port inspection schemes and information systems, which can be effectively linked to enforcement tools such as blacklisting of IUU fishing vessels, trade measures and requiring vessels to participate in vessel monitoring system (VMS) programs.
"The IOC already has a robust regional training programme for port inspectors in play," noted FAO's Judith Swan. "Through this workshop FAO is hoping to follow up on the three days of learning and information sharing at the symposium to help fishing and port authorities compare notes regarding anti-IUU strategies currently being used, add new elements based on what they've just learned, and plan how to deepen their cooperation region-wide, with a particular focus on ports," she said.
For the IOTC, the stakes are high. “Unless effective control measures are implemented soon, the sustainability of tuna and tuna-like fisheries in the region might be compromised," added Alejandro Anganuzzi, IOTC Executive Secretary. "Port state controls offer an attractive option, given their cost-effectiveness”, he said.
No safe havens for illegal fishers
Port state controls -- which include measures such as requiring boats to radio in prior to docking to report on fishing activities and undertaking inspections to check documentation, catches and equipment -- have recently gained attention as perhaps the best way to fight IUU fishing. (Read stories linked at right to learn more.)
In March 2007, 131 countries attending a high level FAO meeting agreed to start a process leading to the adoption of a legally binding international agreement establishing common control measures in ports where fish is landed, transhipped or processed.
The treaty will be based on a model scheme for better port state measures developed by FAO in 2005.
IUU in the Indian Ocean
IUU fishing in the Indian Ocean includes a range of illicit activities: fishing without permission or out of season; harvesting prohibited species; using outlawed types of fishing gear; disregarding catch quotas; or non-reporting or underreporting catch weights.
Of particular concern are the western Indian Ocean and the maritime areas along the coast of eastern Africa. There, fishing vessels of various flags have taken advantage of the absence in coastal countries of strong enforcement mechanisms.
Media Relations, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53168
(+39) 348 141 6802
e-mail this article