Broad alliance of seafood sustainability groups call for more international action on IUU fishing

Ships caught fishing illegally in Montevideo, Uruguay.

A group of seafood sustainability organizations is calling on national governments across the globe to take more action to address illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUUfishing.

In a joint statement, SeaBOS, the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) , the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST), the Global Tuna Alliance (GTA), and Sea Pact called for nations to ratify and implement the Port State Measures Agreement; fully implement the Global Record; adopt the Voluntary Transshipment Guidelines agreed in FAO; and agree to the Roadmap for Combatting IUU Fishing adopted by the Economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

“In recent years, there has been a heartening series of international agreements and commitments to address IUU fishing. But implementation has often lagged. The crucial and urgent need now is to turn agreements and commitments into action,” the groups said in a joint statement. “As leaders in the seafood sector, we are working with our supply chain partners to identify and combat IUU fishing. Member coalitions are acting to identify and remove IUU from their operations (SeaBOS, ISSF, GSSI, Sea Pact); to establish full traceability across their supply chains (GDST, GTA, ISSF); to achieve 100 percent observer coverage of all transshipments at sea (ISSF, GTA); and to pilot and adopt electronic systems to ensure the legality of harvested fish (Sea Pact, SeaBOS, ISSF, GTA). But we need governments to do their part to ensure that all vessels can be reliably identified and that effective controls are in place.”

The groups identified the Port State Measures Agreement as a vital agreement that can be effective at preventing, deterring, and eliminating IUU fishing by preventing vessels fishing illegally from entering ports and landing their catch. Since entering into force in 2016, 74 States and the European Union have ratified PSMA. The groups said all countries must ratify the agreement and do the work necessary to properly implement it, including sharing information through established global and regional platforms such as Global Record, which tracks registration and authorizations, ownership, identification, and activity overviews of every fishing vessel; Registering all designated ports through the PSMA designated ports portal; Supporting the adoption of the FAO Global Information Exchange System (GIES) at the meeting of ongoing meeting of the Parties to the PSMA;  And using these databases and rules to exchange information and enforce common law.

Doing so will ensure fair rules are applied fairly and evenly, including ensuring vessels listed on any IUU list are not able to offload their catch, that all are providing VMS tracks for their voyages, and that all transshipments are independently verified via the presence of an observer, electronic monitoring, or equivalent sensor technologies, they said.

“Now is the time for governments to lead and show their collective commitment to implementation of these instruments, enabling industry members to be more effective in their own efforts,” the groups said.

The groups identified the Pacific as a key opportunity zone – and particularly the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which has 21 member-nations that collectively represent 60 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.

“APEC holds immense potential to drive change in combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” they said. “Currently, 14 APEC Economies have ratified the PSMA, and China has expressed its intention to do so by 2025. By uniting their efforts, these countries can affect change at a scale that ensures regional fisheries management organizations and all ports are equipped with the necessary tools and resources to effectively implement the PSMA.”

The groups called for a greater investment in capacity-building in the region that Pacific nations “need to effectively and consistently implement PSMA.” They also called for better collaboration with regional fisheries management organizations” to operationalize consistent Port State Measures across the Pacific.”

“Fully implemented, these actions will enable ports around the Pacific to identify, inspect, and deny entry to vessels that are involved in IUU fishing,” the groups said. “As countries join together to implement these measures, we stand ready to reinforce their actions and initiatives by working with our supply chain partners to identify and combat IUU fishing and accelerate the implementation of the FAO Global Record, FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Transshipment, and robust Port State Measures. Together, we can make 2023 an inflection point in the fight against IUU fishing.”

Photo courtesy of Leonardo Viti/Shutterstock


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