Combatting IUU fishing through Catch Documentation Schemes: the role of individual countries

By Stop Illegal Fishing:2nd Feb, 2018: Catch documentation schemes

A technical fisheries and aquaculture paper published by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in late 2017 explores ways in which countries involved in seafood supply chains can contribute in their capacities as coastal, flag, port, processing or end-market states, to maximize the effectiveness of catch documentation schemes (CDS).

Written by Gilles Hosch and Francisco Blaha, ‘Seafood traceability for fisheries compliance – Country-level support for catch documentation schemes’, finds that traditional fisheries monitoring, inspection and sanctioning mechanisms are of primary importance for flag, coastal and end-market states, whereas effective country-level traceability mechanisms in support of CDS are crucially important for port and processing states.

“Our focus is on the traceability of seafood consignments and the mechanisms built into catch documentation schemes, but we also explore other important compliance mechanisms that support effective implementation of these schemes at country level. Traceability systems supporting the combatting of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are markedly different from those supporting food safety and quality assurance” said Hosch.

Hosch and Blaha describe how IUU fishing is also facilitated by a lack of regulatory oversight and enforcement. For example, flag states may be lenient with fishing vessels flying their flags, and some port and market states allow or ignore the landing or importation of illegal catches, which means that products derived from IUU fishing continue to reach lucrative seafood markets. In such cases, CDS are unable to make much of a difference.

“Fish do not become ‘IUU’ in the can or the shop and it is critical to establish the legality of an operation and the legal status of fishery products at the earliest point in the supply chain in order to detect IUU fishing and apply sanctions,” said Blaha, underlining that the CDS-controls established at the harvesting end were crucial to a CDS’ overall performance along the supply chain.

As global trade in seafood increases to meet rising demand, traceability becomes ever more important. According to the FAO, 61 percent of fishery product exports (by volume) originate from developing countries and a CDS enables responsible market states to deny access to products derived from IUU fishing, allowing them to be responsible and to help protect the economic interests of developing countries through trade measures such as CDS.

For a CDS to be effective, legally certified fish must be identified and quantified at the beginning of the supply chain, and the laundering of illegally caught fish into of the legal supply chain must be prevented at all stages between landing and importation of products into final consumer markets. The process can involve thousands of individual catch certificates, which must be traced step-by-step throughout the supply chain through export and re-export certificates linking traded products to their source certificates.

A well designed and duly implemented CDS detects all laundering attempts. However, the CDS supporting tools and mechanisms that need to be in place in the different countries along the supply chain are complex, and success relies on national competent authorities being able to detect the origin of fraud within national supply chains – which are typically not covered by CDS.

Currently, there are just three multilateral CDS in operation, covering two species of tuna and toothfish, and the paper suggests that there is considerable room for expansion. At present, multilateral CDS cover less than 0.1 percent of the global marine fisheries catch.

A unilateral CDS put in place by the European Union in 2010, covers most wild-caught marine finfish traded into the EU market, and requires products to be covered by catch certificates validated under the scheme by flag state authorities. This scheme, whilst similar to multilateral schemes, lacks a central registry to issue and record certificates and the lack of an effective traceability system makes it vulnerable to fraud. Such weakness has been recognised by the EU Commission and pledges to addressing these have been made.

A series of 26 recommendations suggest ways in which individual countries in their different capacities, can contribute to the effective development and implementation of current and future CDS through national endeavour.

“Of great importance is the need to ensure there are no exemptions from CDS coverage, as there is in at least one current scheme, because exemptions create markets and supply chain segments in which products can circulate without certificates. This means that oversight is weakened and opportunities for fraud persist,” said Hosch. “With CDS we have developed a market-based tool to effectively tackle a range of severe forms of IUU fishing. Whether the collective will to adopt and expand these systems exists, is a different matter.”

‘Seafood traceability for fisheries compliance – Country-level support for catch documentation schemes’ is the final volume of a series of three technical papers. The earlier publications are ‘Design Options for the Development of Tuna Catch Documentation Schemes’, published by FAO in 2016, and ‘Trade Measures to Combat IUU Fishing: Comparative Analysis of Unilateral and Multilateral Approaches’, which provides a comparative analysis of unilateral and multilateral CDS published by ICTSD in late 2016.

Download ‘Seafood traceability for fisheries compliance – Country-level support for catch documentation schemes’ here.

Recent Posts

FISH-i Africa continues to strengthen efforts to combat illegal fishing

By Dr Motseki Hlatshwayo (SADC Secretariat) and Mr. Per Erik Berg (Stop Illegal...

Read More...

Illegal fishing deprive SADC states of revenues

Windhoek- The SADC Secretariat has advised Namibia during its tenure as regional chair...

Read More...

South Africa: Hout Bay Protest Turns Violent After Poaching Death

By Kimon De Greef Believing that members of an anti-poaching patrol had killed...

Read More...

High power Japanese fisheries delegation arrives in Liberia

A high-power Japanese delegation has arrived in Liberia as guest of the National...

Read More...

SIF News Categories

The Issues

One in four fish in Africa is caught illegally, this threatens the sustainability of fish stocks, damages the ecosystem and deprives governments of income and people of livelihoods.

Find Out More...

Our Approach

Creating change by informing policy and practice, our hands on experience and investigative work means we are often the first to spot new trends and find ways to challenge these.

Read More...

Our Initiatives

Illegal fishing is a complex issue that requires multifaceted responses. Stop Illegal Fishing are working with a range of organisations to bring about change.

Find Out More...

Recent Posts

FISH-i Africa continues to strengthen efforts to combat illegal fishing

By Dr Motseki Hlatshwayo (SADC Secretariat) and Mr. Per Erik Berg (Stop Illegal...

Read More...

Illegal fishing deprive SADC states of revenues

Windhoek- The SADC Secretariat has advised Namibia during its tenure as regional chair...

Read More...

South Africa: Hout Bay Protest Turns Violent After Poaching Death

By Kimon De Greef Believing that members of an anti-poaching patrol had killed...

Read More...