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FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva. (Photo: Renato Araújo/Agência Brasil)

More countries commit to tightening grip against illegal fishing

  (ITALY, 6/6/2018)

An increasing number of countries are joining a global agreement to help stop illegal fishing, matching the celebration of the first International Struggling Day against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU). It is estimated that IUU fishing affects one in every five fish caught, with an annual cost of up to USD 23,000 million.

June 5 was chosen as the date to highlight the scourge of illegal fishing because it is the anniversary of the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), which entered into force in 2016. The PSMA is the first legally binding international agreement of specific way to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. So far, 54 States and the European Union are parties to the agreement, and many have already begun to implement its provisions.

"Many other countries are currently in the process of ratification by their parliaments...I would like to congratulate all of those countries, and urge all other countries to join this global effort to eliminate illegal fishing. For the PSMA to be very effective, we need every country onboard," said FAO 's Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva at a side event during FAO Council to mark the international day.

The PSMA reduces the incentives for vessels that operate illegally, denying their access to ports and, therefore, limiting their capacity to land their catches. In fact, it prevents illicitly obtained fish products from reaching national and international markets.

"Around the world ruthless operators are plundering fish stocks and emptying our oceans, and it is not only fish but people who are paying the price. Empty oceans equal empty stomachs and empty wallets," Karmenu Vella, European Union Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries said at the event at FAO headquarters.

"Indonesia continues to put in place very strict measures and we want to continue to have zero tolerance for illegal and unreported fishing," said Susi Pudjiastuti, Minister for Marine Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia - the host country of this year's international "Our Ocean" Conference. “We all have to work further together. There is no country that can tackle IUU fishing alone,” she added.

About 10 per cent of the world population depends directly on fishing for their livelihood, and in many developing countries, fish is the most commercialized food. Fishing also offers jobs for young people and women. But the sustainability of this important socio-economic sector is seriously threatened by illegal fishing.

IUU fishing has negative impacts on livelihoods, fish stocks and the environment. It may also be connected to other illicit activities such as trafficking of narcotics and weapons, human trafficking, labour abuses and even slavery.

IUU fishing also threatens progress on achieving sustainable fisheries management which is one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.

FAO is delivering a global capacity development program to help developing States improve their capacity to monitor their own fleets and screen foreign vessels visiting their ports, as well as monitoring their coastal zones, so that they can ensure the sustainability of fisheries resources within their waters.

The International Day for the Fight Against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing was approved by the UN General Assembly on 5 December 2017, after a proposal by FAO and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM).    

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