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Illegal fishing vessel detained off the Australian coast.(Photo:abc.net.au)

Parties to FAO’s treaty against illegal fishing discuss its implementation

  (NORWAY, 6/2/2017)

The first Meeting of the Parties to FAO's new international treaty aimed at cracking down on illicit fishing is being developed this week in Oslo, as delegates began hammering out ways to make the agreement a success.

The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA), which went into force in June 2016, now has 46 parties, counting all members of the European Union.

The FAO-brokered treaty restricts port access to fishing vessels that fail to comply with a set of rules, including proof that they have proper operating licenses and transparent disclosure of the species and quantity of fish caught.

This treaty represents the capstone of years of diplomatic effort to combat the scourge of IUU fishing, which amounts to up to 26 million tonnes worth USD 23 billion a year and represents a huge threat to all efforts to bolster sustainable fishing in the world's oceans.

"This treaty signals a real sea change in the international community's commitment to combat IUU fishing in a concerted and joint manner," said Árni M. Mathiesen, FAO's Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Parties to the PSMA currently account for more than two-thirds of the global fish trade and range from Albania, Cuba and Palau to large states including Indonesia, and the United States of America, while Japan and Montenegro will become full parties next month.

The first meeting of the parties to the PSMA is expected to define the responsibilities of the concerned states as well as Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and other international bodies.

FAO, which is already highly engaged in capacity building initiatives to support the treaty around the world, also acquires new duties in relation to PSMA's implementation, including providing support for a future review meeting, eventual informal consultations and ad hoc technical working groups to discuss specific issues.

Among the high-level attendees at the Oslo meeting - along with officials from the hosting Norwegian government - are Tommy E. Remengesau, President of the Republic of Palau and ministers from Dominica, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Norway, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sudan and Tonga and FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva.

One of the matters to be discussed this week is how to assure the proper exchange and publication of information since port states must signal violations to a ship's flag state as well as to regional authorities.

Technical requirements of developing states will also be addressed, while the first ad hoc working group will meet later this week to assess the resources needed to make sure all members, including Small Island Developing States located amid some of the world's most attractive fishing areas, can carry out their tasks.

The PSMA is a powerful tool for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14, which expressly calls for an end to IUU fishing by 2020.

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