On June 5, a key international treaty aimed at combating illegal fishing will come into force. The Port State Measures Agreement, adopted and promoted by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation, allows countries to keep illegal operators out of their ports and to prevent them from landing illegal catches.
EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella welcomed the entry into force of the Port State Measures Agreement:
"We now have a powerful instrument that will help fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing at European and at global level. This is a significant improvement to international ocean governance.
The European Union has always played a leading role in the fight against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities and was among the first to approve this major international agreement already in 2011.
IUU fishing is destroying global fish stocks. It is threatening the economic survival of fishermen who play by the rules.
The scale of the problem is massive worldwide. IUU fishing is worth up to 10 billion euros a year. That's 15% of the global seafood market.
The agreement ensures better control of what happens in ports and is a key tool to prevent IUU fish from entering the market. It sends a clear message: when it comes to illegal fishing, we will not turn a blind eye.
Ratification is only the first step. The next is putting this treaty into practice.
We need to make sure that all coastal states around the world, including developing countries, have the means to effectively implement the Port State Measures Agreement.
The fight against illegal fishing has become global and perpetrators will soon have nowhere to hide."
The Port State Measures Agreement was originally adopted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in November 2009. It enters into force on 5 June 2016, 30 days after the 25th ratification.
It requires that countries officially designate ports for use by foreign fishing vessels. These vessels should send prior notifications to enter designated ports and provide port authorities with information, including on the catches they have on board. The Agreement also calls on countries to deny entry or inspect vessels that have been involved in IUU fishing and to take appropriate actions. The exchange of information between coastal and flag states will also improve significantly. Several additional countries are about to ratify the Agreement in the forthcoming months.
29 countries and the EU (who have signed as one single party) have formally committed and signed the Agreement to date. The parties account for more than 62% of fish imports worldwide and 49% of exports, totalling to more than €119,180 million (USD 133,000 million) and €124,560 million (USD 139,000 million), respectively in 2013. FAO estimates that each year, IUU fishing adds catches amounting to 26 million tonnes, with a value reaching €20,610 million (USD 23,000 million). In so doing, it undermines the efforts to ensure sustainable fisheries and responsible management of fish stocks worldwide.