South Korea hosts regional conference to address IUU fishing

A regional conference in Seoul, South Korea on 29 and 30 November sought to share information and seek solutions to address unsustainable and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in coastal Asia.

The conference, “Building Ocean Health: Sharing experiences to move towards sustainable fisheries management,” brought together officials from South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka as well as the European Union, the United States, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization and the North Pacific Fisheries Commission. It was hosted by the Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

EJF Executive Director Steve Trent said the conference encouraged Asian states to share knowledge, intelligence, best practices and experience in order to help drive greater action and collaboration across the region.

"Across the Asian region, unscrupulous rogue fishing vessels and companies are engaged in IUU fishing, avoiding controls and ignoring laws so that they can maximize short-term profits at the cost of the long-term sustainability of fisheries,” Trent said. “Greater action and collaboration to eradicate these ‘pirate’ fishing operations is urgently needed and we applaud the initiative of the government of South Korea to lead in bringing governments together in this conference to share intelligence, identify best practices and build the collaboration that is so important to securing the long-term sustainability and security of fisheries.”

The conference focused on five key areas, according to an EJF press release. Those included the development of a dialogue and information-sharing between Asian states; the consideration of using Korean reforms for other Asian states; the promotion of reforms to global fisheries governance; the creation of a regional approach and initiatives to combat and deter IUU fishing; and the development of a consensus on the overall steps needed to achieve sustainable fisheries management.

WWF Oceans Practice Leader John Tanzer said the gathering focused on securing more sustainability in Asian fisheries, which account for 55 percent of global fishery product.

“Asian countries have a critical role to play in re-building ocean health and sustainable fisheries,” he said. “A healthy ocean is vital in so many ways – from its role in feeding billions of people, to providing millions of jobs, to generating trillions of dollars for the world economy, to tackling climate change – so the current trends on fisheries and ocean health are extremely alarming. The good news is that solutions do exist, so we welcome this opportunity to bring key players together, to discuss issues and develop a concrete action plan for the future because there is no time to lose.“

The conference provided participants an opportunity for other countries to learn from Korea, which was given an E.U. yellow card for failure to control IUU vessels in 2013 but initiated successful reforms that resulted in the card being removed. Today, many of the region’s governments continue to face international criticism as they struggle to regulate and control their fishing fleets, EJF said.

“Korea has been making its best efforts to combat IUU fishing since a ‘yellow card’ was given. As a result, the yellow card has been lifted within a short period of time,” said Shin-hee Cho, the director general of the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries in Korea. “Now, Korea would like to become an exemplary fishing country. Combating IUU will not be achieved without cooperation. We hope this conference will be an opportunity to explore effective cooperation to combat IUU fishing.”


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