Port State Measures: Keeping Illegally Caught Fish out of SADC Markets (SADC Policy Brief)

Published: 8th Sep, 2021

Uniting to regionally implement an international agreement on ‘Port State Measures’ will enable SADC countries to protect their markets from illegally caught fish and seafood and secure the foundation for growing sustainable blue economies.

Sea ports are critical for fisheries operations as well as for the import and export of fishery products. Fishing vessel operators that catch fish and seafood use ports to unload their catch for sale, processing, or onward transport. They then resupply their vessels with the provisions needed to return to sea and continue catching. Transport vessel operators use ports to load and unload frozen or processed fish and seafood to transport it to global destinations. Vessels used include refrigerated cargo vessels known as reefers and container vessels and general cargo or container vessels.

Industrially caught fish and seafood will almost certainly have passed through one or more ports, either in fishing or transport vessels, before it is consumed. These ports provide an operational bottleneck, offering an opportunity for fisheries management authorities to check information before allowing a vessel to enter port, and inspect fishing vessels and catches in port, before allowing the fish to be offloaded from the vessel. Applying these checks and inspections enables authorities to assess if fishing has taken place legally – with the correct authorisations and in compliance to the applicable rules and regulations – this process is known as applying Port State measures.

When Port State measures are comprehensively applied, and sufficient proof that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has taken place, States must as a minimum, deny access to either their port or port use – stopping illegally caught fish from entering their country and their markets.

Which ports are important for the SADC industrial fishery sector

Which ports are important for the SADC industrial fishery sector

When Port State measures are applied cooperatively and systematically across all ports within a region, the entire region – including landlocked countries – are protected from the importation of illegally caught fish. Taking this step will protect SADC’s fishery value chain, markets, and legitimate operators from illegal products and players and it will pave the way for sustainable blue growth for the benefit of all SADC citizens.

Where to from here?

For the SADC MCSCC to play its role, the Charter on its establishment must enter into force. The longer the Charter is not in force, the more SADC States lose to IUU fishing – this is currently estimated at a rate of USD 400 million per year2. Without the coordination and efficient communication channels that the SADC MCSCC can provide, efforts to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing through Port State measures are undermined.

SADC States that have not already, are encouraged to become party to the FAO PSMA, to fulfil the commitments of the 2008 SADC Statement of Commitment and to develop legislation to enable the PSMA’s effective implementation. Becoming party to the PSMA does not only bring obligations, it also creates an avenue for assistance. Assistance can come through various mechanisms including from the FAO or bilaterally from supporting countries or partners. Assistance can help with human and institutional capacity, enabling the receiving State to effectively implement the PSMA. Implementing the PSMA has additional benefits – the PSMA requires flag States to promote use of ports in States implementing Port State measures. This means that States which effectively implement Port State measures should receive increased port visits, thereby increasing job creation, allowing for shore-based activities to develop and grow and securing revenue for the government.

To keep IUU caught fish out of SADC ports and markets all SADC States should:

• Support the establishment of the SADC MCSCC by signing the Charter for its establishment.
• Share information with the SADC MCSCC in respect to illegal fish or illegal fishery operators in the SADC fishery value chain and markets.
• Create awareness and share information in respect to the damaging impacts of IUU fishing socially, economically and environmentally.

In addition, SADC Ports States should:

• Become a party to the FAO PSMA, if they are not already.
• Designate ports for use by foreign flagged vessels.
• Build capacity so that ports are staffed with competent fishery inspectors.
• Require all fishing vessels using SADC ports to provide an advance request for entry into port.
• Require all Industrial fishing vessels using SADC ports to have an IMO number and an automatic identification system (AIS).
• Work nationally to share information and take multiagency action against illegal operators.
• Conduct risk assessments to identify high-risk operators and fishing vessels.
• Deny access to vessels when there is sufficient proof of their involvement in IUU fishing or allow entry only for inspection.
• Conduct inspections on vessels if information required for risk assessment is incomplete and apply random checks on other vessels.


This policy brief was prepared by Stop Illegal Illegal Fishing in partnership with the SADC IUU Task Force, the SADC Secretariat and WWF,  with support from WWF Mozambique through the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). For more information go to: www.sadc.int.

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