A step forward in the fight against harmful fishing practices

01 June 2016

UNCTAD welcomes the imminent operationalization of the FAO's Port State Measures Agreement that will give States and Port Authorities increased competences and legal tools to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (the Port State Measures Agreement) , adopted by the FAO Conference in 2009, will enter into force on 5 June 2016 after the deposit of the twenty-fifth instrument of accession to the FAO.

This will represents a significant milestone in the battle against harmful fishing practices and strengthen efforts to conserve and replenish fish stocks. It will also advance implementation target 14.6 of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the 2030 agenda whereby the international community "by 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, IUU fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible (…)".

The damage caused by unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is widely acknowledged. It has been estimated that illegally harvested fish ranges from 11 to 26 million tons of catch each year, worth between US$10 and US$23.5 billion. In some regions of the world, this is particularly worrisome because IUU fishing displaces potential capture by small scale and artisanal fisheries.

The Agreement will help minimize such losses. It enables countries to close their ports to illicit fishing products, making it more difficult and expensive to engage in IUU fishing and represents the basis for the type of port measures that States may take in scaling up efforts to combat IUU fishing.

It will also contribute to harmonized port measures, clear inspection and verification procedures, and enhance monitoring capacity and cooperation by flag States and Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) and seeks to prevent the occurrence of ports of non-compliance i.e. ports that do not regulate effectively fishing and fishing-related activities.

States parties to the binding Agreement include important fishing nations such as Canada, Chile, the European Union (as a Member Organization), Iceland, Indonesia, Mozambique, New Zealand, Peru, Republic of Korea, Seychelles, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States. Parties to the Agreement will need to translate its main obligations and provisions into national legislation in order to give port authorities new competences and tools so new measures can be put into practice.

The implementation phase will also represent infrastructure, administrative and human capacity challenge for many developing countries, especially Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries. The latter have extensive exclusive economic zones and large fishing areas but insufficient capacities to monitor, control, verify and inspect all port landings.

While FAO is implementing a substantial set of capacity building activities and support for acceding countries so they can be ready for the entry into force and effective application of the agreement, UNCTAD supports international policy discourse and consensus building on trade related aspects of the oceans economy including sustainable fisheries in support of the implementation of SDG 14.