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UN agency leads fight for binding international treaty to fight illegal fishing

14 March 2007Stepping up the fight against illegal fishing, which is depleting world stocks, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is leading efforts for the adoption by 2009 of a final draft for a legally binding international agreement establishing control measures in ports where fish is landed, transhipped or processed. Stepping up the fight against illegal fishing, which is depleting world stocks, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is leading efforts for the adoption by 2009 of a final draft for a legally binding international agreement establishing control measures in ports where fish is landed, transhipped or processed. The proposed agreement will be based on a voluntary FAO model scheme which outlines recommended “Port State” control measures, which include running background checks on boats prior to granting docking privileges and undertaking inspections in port to check documentation, cargos and equipment. These are widely viewed as one of the best ways to fight illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing. Fishing without permission, catching protected species, using outlawed types of gear or disregarding catch quotas are among the most common offences. At a meeting in Rome last week of FAO’s Committee on Fisheries (COFI), 131 governments and the European Commission agreed to start a process leading to such a pact. Additional consultations will be held in this year and next to produce a draft version for final approval at COFI’s next meeting in 2009. Illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing undermines good management of world fisheries, has negative impacts on fish stocks, including those upon which poor fishers depend, and implies significant costs both in terms of lost fishing revenue and money spent combating it. FAO’s model scheme recommends training inspectors to increase their effectiveness and improving international information-sharing about vessels with a history of such activities to help authorities turn away repeat offenders. Last week’s meeting also entrusted FAO with drafting technical guidelines on recommended best practices in deep sea fisheries; producing guidelines on the use of protected areas for better management; undertaking a study on the probable impacts of climate change in order to evaluate management and policy responses; and convening a conference on the needs of small-scale fisheries that employ some 34 million people in the developing world. In addition to delegations from FAO Members, 41 intergovernmental organizations and 29 nongovernmental organizations also participate in COFI.

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