Planet Tracker analyst calls for increased observer coverage on distant-water fleet

Published on
August 25, 2021
Planet Tracker Financial Analyst Francois Mosnier

If one percent of global harmful fisheries subsidies were redirected to onboard monitoring, the proportion of wild-catch fishing monitored by observers could create a meaningful impact in reducing illegal fishing and bycatch, according to Planet Tracker Financial Analyst Francois Mosnier.

Mosnier, a financial analyst covering seafood companies at the financial think tank, said he believes an additional USD 222 million (EUR 190.2 million) is needed to expand observer coverage to 20 percent across all regional fishery management organizations, which cover the cost of observers through a levy on fisheries. Currently, observers cover just 2 percent of all catches recorded by RFMOs.

Mosnier said the financial sector should press their demand for fishing and seafood companies to embrace ESG [environmental, social, and governance] initiatives, using clauses embedded in lending instruments to play a role “where increased monitoring at sea drives lower interest rates.” Strong demand among investors for ESG loans would lower borrowing costs of fishing companies, according to Mosnier. Mosnier pointed to a sustainability-linked loan recently issued by Thai Union – the company’s monitoring program is verified by the Nature Conservancy – which was oversubscribed. This, he said, “could ensure more sustainable fisheries and higher net profits.

“It’s a double win for the investor,” Mosnier said.

Regional fishery management organizations also need to do more to protect observers – at least seven of whom have died while working onboard fishing vessels in the past seven years. Fisheries observers are independent specialists placed onboard commercial fishing vessels to collect data on catch volumes as well as discards, bycatch, and transshipments at sea.

Mosnier told SeafoodSource that China’s decision last year to dispatch observers for the first time on its distant-water fleet is “very interesting” and “potentially game-changing.” China is the world’s top subsidizer of distant-water fishing and is involved in negotiations at the World Trade Organization to end harmful subsidies to fisheries.

Up to one-third of global wild-catch volumes originate from illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fishing, according to Mosnier.

“These three major issues are hard to tackle under any circumstances, but are unsolvable without adequate monitoring of fisheries globally,” he said. “Gathering information on catch, bycatch, fishing effort, and compliance with regulations is indeed key to securing the sustainability of fisheries.”

Photo courtesy of Planet Tracker

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