8 June 2017

Africa: Sustainable Use of Oceans Requires End to Illegal Fishing

New York — New treaty is key tool in quest for sustainable fisheries and coastal communities, Sweden steps up

The world's oceans offer both challenges and solutions to the world's Sustainable Development Agenda, and managing them more carefully is essential for global food security today and tomorrow as well as the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today at the United Nations Ocean Conference.

More than three billion people rely on fish for critical animal protein, while 300 million people depend on marine fisheries, the vast majority being linked to small-scale fisheries that are the backbone of marine and coastal social and ecosystems in many developing countries.

The high-level UN Ocean Conference aims to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 on enhancing conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

"Unsustainability poses many risks and a heavy price," said Graziano da Silva. "Today many fisheries around the world are characterized by excessive fishing effort, low productivity and inadequate profitability."

That exacerbates pressures that have led to almost a third of all marine fish stocks being exploited at biologically unsustainable levels, a threefold increase in 40 years, he said. Annual fishery production would increase by around 20 percent - worth an extra $32 billion each year - if partners collaborate to rebuild overfished stocks, he added.

FAO is playing a leading role in pursuing a core target of SDG14, which calls for ending the scourge of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing by 2020. So-called IUU fishing accounts for up to 26 million tonnes of fish a year, one-sixth of all the fish caught at sea and worth $23 billion. It also directly undermines efforts to make sure marine resources are sustainably used.

What FAO is doing

International efforts to crack down on IUU fishing made a major step forward in 2016, when the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) entered into legal force. The international treaty brokered by FAO now has nearly 50 parties, including the European Union, Indonesia, the United States of America and - soon - Japan as well as . many Small Island Developing States.

The PSMA gives new powers to port officials to verify that any visiting ship is abiding by all relevant fishing rules - including having the proper permits, respecting quotas and avoiding at-risk species.

The treaty also requires parties to support effective implementation by making sure all parties have the technical capacity to fulfil their obligations. FAO has already devoted more than $1.5 million to this effort, which Graziano da Silva described as "seed money" while awaiting voluntary contributions from donors.

"IUU fishing activities are a threat to marine life and impede the development and prosperity of vulnerable countries and must be completely stopped," said Sven Erik Bucht, the Swedish Minister for Rural Affairs, who met with Graziano da Silva and announced officially Sweden's contribution of $5.4 million to FAO to combat IUU fishing.

The funding will also help support FAO's ongoing work on what to do about discarded fishing gear - which constitutes both ocean rubbish as well as killing fish - and on the Global Record on Fishing Vessels, a FAO platform aimed at providing essential and transparent information to those in charge of fisheries management.

FAO is also leading work on Catch Documentation Schemes that enables fish to be tracked from source to shop - something consumers increasingly want. And, through its Blue Growth Initiative, FAO is also strongly focused on promoting sustainable development among coastal fishing communities in general.

"I am very confident that... we shall move ahead together to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing," Graziano da Silva said.

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