African countries battling illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) should embrace tighter port-control procedures to deny the illicit catch a market and cut off perpetrators from their profits, according to nonprofit Trygg Mat Tracking.
Trygg Mat Tracking Executive Director Duncan Copeland said port authorities should have capacity to “make rapid risk assessments to inform the key decisions on whether to let a vessel into port, and where to target inspections.”
“Implementing strong port controls is the best and most-effective opportunity to ensure that illegal catch has no market, and illegal fishing operators are cut off from their profits,” Copeland said.
Trygg Mat Tracking, alongside another not-for-profit organization, Global Fishing Watch, have partnered with Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, and Cote d’Ivoire to support the tightening of port controls in the countries in a pilot project targeting the elimination of IUU in East and West Africa offshore fisheries.
The pilot project involves providing port authorities in the four countries with “satellite-tracking data, analysis, and training needed to assess a fishing vessel’s recent operations and compliance risk.”
Copeland said the focus of the pilot project, which includes the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea, would support “building the tools, data, routines, and capacity needed to effectively implement the Port State Measures Agreement in East and West Africa.”
“The collaboration will better position port authorities and fisheries officials to monitor the movements of fishing and carrier vessels, identify activity that may indicate an elevated risk of illegal behavior, and target inspections and enforcement where they are needed most,” a joint statement by Trygg Mat Tracking and Global Fishing Watch said.
The project will be a key agenda item in an upcoming meeting in Dakar, Senegal that will bring together fisheries experts from the four countries and other organizations that promote sustainable fisheries. The meeting will be hosted by the Senegal Fisheries Protection and Surveillance Directorate.
“African nations are aware of the grave threat illegal activity off their shores presents to their livelihoods and food security,” Global Fishing Watch CEO Tony Long said. “Support for the landmark Agreement on Port State Measures has been promising and significant among the continent’s coastal states since the agreement came into force in 2016, and with easy-to-access technology and training to use it, African states can better defend their fisheries for generations to come.”
Both Global Fishing Watch and Trygg Mat Tracking have offered to introduce Vessel Viewer, a new fishing vessel-history tool developed by the two organizations with capacity to provide information on a vessel’s identity, fishing activity, port visits and transshipments, to the partnership's participants.
“This allows users to identify and cross-check relevant, absent or false information about a given vessel and its fishing operations to inform risk-based decision-making and operational planning,” a joint statement by two organizations said.
The organizations will also support the four countries as they carry out port risk assessments, implement advanced request for entry to port (AREP) procedures, and carry out capacity-building and analysis.
The organizations have also announced the development of a new risk-assessment tool to help combat IUU worldwide. The new technology will use data to prevent vessels at high risk of involvement in IUU fishing from accessing insurance, thereby discouraging vessels form participating in criminal activity.
The tool uses GFW’s machine-learning experience and vessel-tracking data and Trygg Mat Tracking’s identity and compliance data to give insurers the ability to rapidly determine a vessel’s risk of participating in IUU.
“Research has found that vessels engaged in IUU fishing often seek out insurance, even when blacklisted, which enables illegal activity while increasing risk to insurers and undermining sustainable fisheries management,” Trygg Mat Tracking said in a release.
The new program is being supported by Ocean Unite and the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance.
“IUU fishing vessels cannot operate on their own. They rely on an international network of businesses that provide them with services, including insurance. Insured IUU fishing vessels may also be purposefully sunk, and owners have attempted to whitewash the profits of IUU fishing through insurance claims,” Oceana Illegal Fishing and Transparency Campaign Director Dana Miller said. “When effectively mobilized and equipped with the right tools, insurance companies can become important allies in the global fight against IUU fishing. These companies must scrutinize their contracts more closely and deny IUU fishing vessels access to their services.”
Photo courtesy of Trygg Mat Tracking