Global action is stepping up in the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing

New FAO digital initiative aims to boost transparency and information-sharing

1 June 2021, Rome/Brussels - Global action is making a major difference in efforts to combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, but more needs to be done as consumer demand and fish production continue to rise, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, said Monday.

The Director-General was speaking at a High-Level Event at the Third Meeting of the Parties of the 2009 FAO Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA), a virtual event hosted by the European Union.

The PSMA is the first binding international agreement designed to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing by stopping foreign vessels engaged in it, from using ports, landing their catches, or denying them entry.

So far 69 parties, representing 56 percent of port States globally, have ratified the Agreement and the PSMA is one of the critical tools to combat IUU fishing.

Participants at the event included the European Union's Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, as well as Ministers and representatives from Fiji, Mozambique, Peru, Spain, Thailand, and the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States. The importance of the PSMA for fisheries sustainability, was highlighted in many of their interventions.

Referring to FAO's 2020 State of the World Fisheries and Aquaculture, the FAO Director-General noted that global fish production, for instance, had reached the highest levels ever, providing almost half the world's population with nearly 20 percent of their average animal protein. He also noted that about 10 percent of the world's population depend on the value chain of aquatic products for livelihoods and income.

"With this comes great responsibility to manage all aquatic foods sustainably and protect our oceans, rivers and lakes," he added, noting, "Demand should be met by more sustainable supply from aquaculture".

Underscoring the need "for a holistic design to eliminate IUU Fishing", the Director-General said that the transparent exchange of information and digitalization is key to boost the effective implementation of the PSMA. 

Efforts to deter IUU fishing should rely on early warning based on Big Data and information sharing, he added, noting that this would be enhanced through the PSMA Global Information Exchange System (GIES) which has been developed by FAO.

The GIES is designed to support the implementation of the PSMA, which aims to block fish products derived from IUU fishing from entering the international markets. The GIES will share vital information, including port entry/use denials of foreign-flagged vessels into designated ports and inspection reports about these vessels under suspicion to have been engaged in IUU fishing.

"This digitalized system will turbocharge access to near real-time information exchange and increase transparency," Qu said.

FAO has so far assisted 43 countries in reviewing their legislation, strengthening their institutional capacity, improving their monitoring, control, and surveillance systems and operations, and to effectively implement the PSMA. Around 300 people have taken part in seminars held by FAO, during which details on the PSMA GIES portal were shared.  

Aquatic foods sector critical to end hunger and poverty

In his address the FAO Director-General noted that, at a time when the world has entered the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, a further transformation of the fisheries and aquaculture sector is necessary to enhance its contribution to the SDGs.

"Blue transformation, intensifying sustainable aquaculture, transforming fisheries through better management and improving the efficiency and inclusiveness of fish value chains, will be critical to end hunger and poverty," Qu said.

He noted how FAO's new Strategic Framework for the next decade supports the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through the transformation to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agri-food systems.

"To achieve these aspirations, the aquatic foods sector has big potential and needs to be fully integrated in our efforts, for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind," Qu said.

The Meeting of the Parties is convened to discuss matters related to the implementation of the Agreement.  This week's meeting will review the Agreement and present a prototype of the PSMA Global Information Exchange System.

Photo: ©FAO/Ernesto Benavides
Fishing vessels in Peru awaiting inspection.