Indonesia signs pact against illegal fishing

The Indonesian Navy vessel KRI Imam Bonjol (left) inspects the Chinese flagged fishing boat Han Tan Cou in the waters near Natuna Islands, Riau Islands province, Indonesia.
The Indonesian Navy vessel KRI Imam Bonjol (left) inspects the Chinese flagged fishing boat Han Tan Cou in the waters near Natuna Islands, Riau Islands province, Indonesia.PHOTO: REUTERS

UN accord among 62 countries and territories is landmark move, but will be hard to implement

Indonesia, one of the world's largest repositories of marine resources, is among 62 countries and territories that have adopted an international pact to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

The Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) "marks the dawn of a new era in the effort to combat illegal fishing", said Mr Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a United Nations agency.

He was speaking at an event held in Rome on Monday to mark the official implementation of the agreement last month.

The landmark accord was first adopted as an FAO agreement in 2009 but came into force only on June 5. It is now legally binding in all the 34 countries and 28 European Union member-states that have ratified the PSMA.

 

The FAO hopes the pact will help stamp out IUU fishing, which not only jeopardises marine ecosystems but also threatens the livelihoods and food security of millions of fishermen, said Mr da Silva.

Latest figures from 2014 showed that 90 per cent of the world's fish stocks have been fully or over-exploited, mainly due to IUU fishing.

More than half of all fish exports are from developing countries, underscoring the importance, in terms of revenue, of sustainable management practices, said the FAO.

It is also estimated that IUU fishing accounts for annual catches of up to 26 million tonnes, with a value of up to US$23 billion (S$31 billion).

Implementation of the agreement, however, may prove challenging for some nations, especially developing and small island states, due to resource and capacity constraints, said Mr da Silva.

 

"FAO is working to deliver immediate support to those countries... most in need of it," he said.

The PSMA will essentially help countries party to the agreement to identify vessels engaged in IUU fishing and deny them access to, or the use of, port services.

Other measures include requiring boat captains to declare information about the vessel, the catch and operating licences before being granted entry to a port.

These are aimed at restricting or blocking the movement of IUU vessels in national and international markets. Another procedure allows port authorities to inspect fishing boat crews, which could lead to the detection of illegal practices, such as smuggling and human trafficking.

"While the agreement constitutes a powerful and cost-effective tool, it cannot eliminate IUU fishing on its own and must be flanked by other tools and efforts," said Mr da Silva.

Global per capita fish consumption has risen above 20kg a year for the first time this year due to stronger aqua-culture supply and demand, record hauls for key species and reduced wastage, said an FAO report released last Thursday.

"Yet despite notable progress in some areas, the state of the world's marine resources has not improved," said the FAO in the latest issue of The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture report.

The global total for fishery production in 2014 was 93.4 million tonnes, slightly more than the previous two years. Some 57 million people were engaged in the primary fish production sectors.

Latest figures from 2014 show that 90 per cent of the world's fish stocks have been fully or over-exploited, mainly due to IUU fishing. More than half of all fish exports are from developing countries, underscoring the importance, in terms of revenue, of sustainable management practices, says the FAO.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesia signs pact against illegal fishing'. Print Edition | Subscribe