Call For International Action to Fight Illegal Fishing

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Call For International Action to Fight Illegal Fishing

Call For International Action to Fight Illegal Fishing
October 12
14:33 2011

Illegal fishing not only seriously distorts markets for EU fishermen and consumers, but threatens to destroy the biodiversity of the world’s oceans, the EU Fisheries Committee has warned. An estimated 15% of world catches – between 11 and 26 million tonnes a year – come from illegal fishing. The committee is calling on the EU to promote international action, including stepping up inspections at sea and closing markets to illegal seafood, to maintain world fish stocks.


Given the high mobility of fish stocks and fishing fleets, illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing can only be effectively tackled by international co-operation, say MEPs, stressing that the EU, as the world’s major fishing power and the largest importer of fisheries products, should play a key role in mobilising international community to combat IUU.


Besides threatening fish stock sustainability and food security, which affects both consumers and fishing communities illegal fishing constitutes unfair competition for fishermen who abide by the rules


The technology to monitor and prevent illegal fishing now exists – what is missing is the political will to do so, say MEPs. The committee urges the Commission and Member States to press the issue in international fora such as the WTO, and calls for sanctions against states that fail to meet their international obligations, eg by ensuring that vessels that fly their flags abide by the rules.


The committee also says that aid from the EU’s generalised preference system should be conditional upon applicant countries’ compliance with FAO and UN rules against IUU and that the Commission and Member States should step up their financial and technical support for surveillance programmes in the waters of developing countries.


Since two thirds of world’s oceans are beyond national jurisdiction, new measures are needed, such as compulsory registration of fishing vessels above 10 GT (gross tonnage), a global catch certification scheme, international exchange of information on vessels activities, import controls and an agreement on closing markets to illegally caught fish, say MEPs.


To be effective, such measures must be backed by major fish markets. MEPs urge the EU to consult major market states, such as the US, Japan and China, about developing international legal instruments, possibly under WTO auspices, to halt, prosecute and punish trade in IUU fish.


MEPs would also like the EU to establish a register of fishing vessels authorised to fish and blacklist those that engage in illegal fishing. They also advocate stepping up inspections at sea, developing catch-documentation schemes, banning transhipments, compulsory use of electronic vessel monitoring systems (VMS) and stronger regional fisheries management organisations to cover all high seas fisheries.

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