Fisheries not catching on

There has never been a more urgent need to strengthen fisheries management measures globally, says TRAFFIC in a new report that examines the application of trade-related measures by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) in regulating the world’s fishing industry.
RFMOs are intergovernmental organizations who regulate fishing activities across the world’s oceans.
“The world’s fisheries need to be brought under control by the RFMOs, or we are going to see more and more species added to the list of overfished species facing extinction,” says TRAFFIC’s Glenn Sant.
The report, Catching On? Trade-related measures as a fisheries management tool, examines how trade-related measures are used by RFMOs to manage fisheries, in particular the use of documentation to authenticate the legality of catches, the use of “white” and “black” lists for vessels—to identify those that comply with or breach RFMO regulations, and the use of trade bans on States who fail to implement conservation and management measures.
The report was released ahead of a crucial meeting of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in Rome next week.
“It’s make or break time for the world’s fisheries,” says Sant. “Either they do something about the plundering of the oceans, or species will become extinct and the fishing industry will collapse.”
Many fish stocks are dwindling rapidly, with conservation measures undermined by illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) “pirate” fishing activities.
“The implementation of trade-related measures by RFMOs is key to curbing IUU fishing activities,” says Sant. “This means tackling illegal fishing activities on the high seas, at the ports where their cargo is landed and at markets where it is sold.”
Currently, existing RFMO measures fall well short of the standards set by the Model Scheme on Port State Measures to Combat IUU Fishing, drawn up by the FAO.
“RFMOs need to upgrade their existing schemes to reflect these standards, and should develop legally binding measures to ensure they are adhered to.”
“International co-operation is essential to tackle this global problem; if an individual RFMO gets tough on IUU vessels, it’ll just shift the problem elsewhere.”
In relation to trade-related measures TRAFFIC recommends the introduction of complimentary systems, such as satellite tracking, whereby the position and fishing activities of vessels can be constantly monitored. Catch Documentation Schemes (CDS) can provide reliable data on legitimate fish landings, allowing sustainable quota levels to be set, and even provide insights into the levels of illegal trade. But so far RFMOs and countries have been slow to introduce CDS schemes and continue to rely on lesser measures that only monitor trade, and more often than not monitor only part of the trade.
The report also warns that RFMOs must ensure their efforts to minimize the impact of IUU fishing on legal operations are balanced with their other management responsibilities.
“Systematic use of trade-related measures is effective,” says Sant. “A combination of catch documentation, vessel monitoring, on-board observers, controls on transshipment and where vessels land and sell their catch do work. What it needs is the political will and adequate resources to ensure these measures are put in place.”