Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing

Voluntary Guidelines for Flag State Performance

©FAO/Matthew Camilleri/FAO

The Voluntary Guidelines for Flag State Performance (VGFSP) provide guidance to strengthen and monitor compliance by flag States with their international duties and obligations regarding the flagging and control of fishing vessels.

They cover the relevant responsibilities of flag States on the basis of elements contained in international law, including binding and non-binding international fisheries instruments.

Fisheries management, registration and records of vessels, authorizations, MCS and cooperation between flag States and coastal States are among the central components of the Guidelines.

The VGFSP spell out a range of actions that countries can take to ensure that vessels registered under their flags do not conduct IUU fishing, including monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) activities, such as vessel monitoring systems (VMS) and observers.

They promote information exchange and cooperation among countries so that flag states are in a position to refuse to register vessels that are “flag-hopping” by attempting to register with another flag state or to refuse vessels that have been reported for IUU fishing.

The Guidelines also include recommendations on how countries can encourage compliance and take action against non-compliance by vessels, as well as on how to enhance international cooperation to assist developing countries to fulfil their flag state responsibilities.

The VGFSP, adopted at the 31st session of COFI in 2014, are available here.