Experts meeting on trade in sustainable fisheries come up with a set of concrete recommendations to halt a looming catastrophe for the millions of people who depend on fish for food and their livelihoods.
Experts on sustainable fisheries convened in Geneva by the Commonwealth Secretariat and UNCTAD discussed a number of concrete recommendations on 1 October, just days after Goal 14 of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), which concerns protecting fisheries and the marine environment, was adopted by United Nations member States.
In this regard, the UNCTAD and the Commonwealth urged countries and relevant organizations to take stock of the current state of affairs and draft an implementation agenda for sustainable and responsible fisheries.
Participants recognized five main interrelated pillars for a 2030 agenda on sustainable fisheries and discussed several next steps:
Strengthen effective governance of the fisheries sector:
- Support a triennial Conference to coordinate action on the advancement of SDG 14 and other related goals.
- Establish a monitoring mechanism on the implementation of SDG 14 and the role of trade and other implementation needs.
- Promote the participation and ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement.
- Promote coherence among the myriad of international laws and frameworks regulating the sector and their effective implementation in a mutually supportive manner by regional fisheries management organizations and national fisheries authorities.
- Regulation of fisheries in the high seas still requires improvement.
Harness the potential of international trade to meet an increasing demand for fish as population continues to grow:
- Map and promote convergence and harmonization of non-tariff measures (NTMs).
- Promote mutual recognition of documentation, certification, testing and evaluation needed to fulfill technical regulations and public and private standards.
- Make rules of origin relevant to Preferential Trade Agreements more flexible for developing countries to facilitate value addition.
Address and remove harmful incentives and tackle IUU:
- Achieve full transparency and disclosure of subsidies.
- Identify and differentiate harmful and beneficial subsidies and prohibit harmful fishing subsidies in the next 5 years or by 2020.
- Quantify evidence on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), its market effects and the cost of inaction.
- Provide options on fisheries' traceability.
- The Food and Agriculture Organization's Port State Measures Agreement should be ratified and adopted to promote implementation and practical application on IUU measures.
- Focus on incentives to fulfill and address IUU and not on sanctioning schemes.
Design complementary measures for fish stock resilience and conservation of marine ecosystems:
- Countries should green their export baskets to diversify exports. UNCTAD was requested to continue expanding its support on National Green Export Reviews to other countries, by adapting it to the marine environment.
- Promote regional cooperation and common regulatory and fish stock management systems that build climate and economic resilience.
Meet cost and capability constraints for value addition in developing countries:
- Promote regional cooperation schemes emulating, for instance, the organic cooperation in Africa and in the Pacific.
- Recommend financial institutions to introduce schemes for green financing and for the valuation of ecosystem services and the development of marine ecosystem value chains.
Experts at the meeting also recommended that countries prioritize a) market access constraints while recognizing special and differential treatment and, b) transparency, notification and monitoring issues regarding certain forms of subsidies that promote overfishing in the upcoming Tenth Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization. Moreover, participants also encouraged member of the World Customs Organization to develop Harmonized System codes for certified seafood products.
All participants agreed that there is no time to waste. The shortage of fish is no longer an abstract phenomenon and the world stands on the brink of an economic and environmental catastrophe. Actions to reverse the damage done and ensure the future cannot be delayed anymore. Experts agreed that countries, organizations and civil society need to seize this renewed opportunity and that the time to act is now.