COFI 35 advances international efforts to combat illegal fishing

By Stop Illegal Fishing:21st Oct, 2022:

The 35th session of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Committee on Fisheries (COFI) took place in Rome, Italy on 5 to 9 September 2022. COFI is a global inter-governmental forum where FAO Members meet to review and consider the issues and challenges related to fisheries and aquaculture.

Stop Illegal Fishing (SIF) participated as an International Non-Governmental Organization Observer and provided technical support to the African Group to ensure that common positions were developed and shared, through the support of The Waterloo Foundation.

Amongst key measures to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing discussed during COFI was the status and effectiveness of the implementation of the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA).

Speaking at the event, Madagascar’s Minister of Fisheries and the Blue Economy, Dr Paubert Mahatante Tsimanaoraty, said, “The implementation of port State measures is being supported in southern Africa through the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Monitoring Control and Surveillance Coordination Centre in Maputo, Mozambique. I am pleased to note that Madagascar has recently signed the Charter for establishing this Centre. We are working together with the support of partners, including the FAO through the Global Programme, to build capacity and develop procedures for information sharing. We encourage the FAO Secretariat and other partners to continue to strengthen the implementation of the PSMA nationally and regionally.”

African States have shown strong commitment to port State measures, with 27 now party to the Agreement. Sandy Davies, SIF, stated, “Whilst the PSMA is a simple agreement, with very clear objectives, that has garnered significant support, implementation is a complex process as it relies on sound national legislation, clear operational procedures and effective interagency communication and cooperation. To get this right and to get the PSMA working well, ongoing support will be needed. The regional MCS centres of the SADC and the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) and their associated task forces provide great opportunities for establishing and supporting best practice.”

Additional measures to combat IUU fishing include the adoption of Voluntary Guidelines on Transshipment, which aim to regulate, monitor and control transshipment to support sustainable fisheries and further close loopholes that enable fish derived from IUU fishing to enter the market.

A review of the 1989 FAO Voluntary Standard Specifications for the Marking and Identification of Fishing Vessels was shared by COFI and promoted calls for the FAO Secretariat to prioritise a formal process of updating these Standard Specifications to a Global Guideline for the identification and marking of all fishing vessels, irrelevant of size or flag and to provide a much needed guide for States and regional bodies in this challenging yet fundamental requirement for monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS).

The holistic approach to tackle IUU fishing between the three sister United Nations organizations the FAO, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) was further advanced by the endorsement of a revised terms of reference for the Joint Working Group (JWG). It is hoped that the JWG will support development of a mechanism for establishing a data collection scheme and repository on global fisher accident and mortality data and that the FAO should guide on this process. This will support an increased focus on fisher and fishing vessel safety and increase evidence and understanding of the high level of fisher mortality and accidents in fisheries.

 

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