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Commercial Fishing



New report calls for collective action by APEC economies on combating IUU fishing.  A new report is calling for collective action by the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economies and the seafood industry to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Today, ahead of the APEC Leaders Summit in San Francisco on 11 November, the Supply Chain Risk Project (SCRP) is launching the Transparency Review “Shared Data, Shared Goals”, which exposes critical gaps in fisheries data and identifies opportunities for Pacific leadership to close these gaps, enhance transparency, and spearhead the global fight against IUU fishing. SCRP is a joint initiative by the World Economic Forum’s Friends of Ocean Action, Stanford Centre for Ocean Solutions, Global Fishing Watch, and FishWise.

IUU fishing is highly destructive. It accounts for one in every five fish caught globally and imposes an annual economic toll of $26-$50 billion on the world economy, with impacts felt most acutely by vulnerable coastal communities. And the world is falling short on its pledges to end this scourge. Tools exist that can help with combating IUU, but countries and the private sector are not coming together to optimise their use.

“The Transparency Review highlights the sobering reality of critical gaps in fisheries data which hamper our ability to fight IUU fishing. APEC Economies have an opportunity this week to lead the charge and demonstrate their commitment to closing these gaps, enhancing transparency, and collaborating across sectors to secure a more sustainable future.” – Alfredo Giron, Head, Ocean Action Agenda at the World Economic Forum.

There has been negligible progress towards Sustainable Development Goal target 14.4 to end IUU fishing by 2020.  With more effective implementation, the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), the key international instrument targeting IUU fishing, could be a critical tool towards creating the much-needed momentum to end IUU fishing. The new Transparency Review, with research led by the Stanford Centre for Ocean Solutions and FishWise, uncovers that one reason for this lack of progress is the current underutilisation of and lack of engagement with the FAO data-sharing platforms set up to support PSMA implementation.

APEC Economies can take the lead in meeting these challenges. In May, a Metacoalition of seafood industry leaders called on APEC Economies to improve fisheries transparency and commit to robust implementation of PSMA by sharing information through established global platforms. The Transparency Review supports this call and proposes three essential pathways for APEC and the seafood industry to unite behind: collaboration, optimisation and streamlining of data, and strong APEC leadership. These pathways directly align with APEC’s Roadmap on Combating IUU Fishing, where APEC Economies highlight the need to form public-private partnerships in combating IUU fishing.

The Transparency Review found that existing FAO data-sharing platforms have the potential to help eliminate IUU fishing, but only if they provide the type and quality of data that companies need to trace their supply chains. Today there are far too many gaps. Companies surveyed for the Transparency Review particularly stressed that governments need to increase their enforcement of existing conventions and regulations, and share official IUU vessel lists.

APEC leaders meeting in San Francisco should seize the opportunity for progress in the Pacific. They can lead the charge in the world’s biggest ocean region by taking coordinated action that makes it harder for IUU vessels to operate. Essential next steps recommended by the Transparency Review are:

  • APEC Economies should align with industry to implement the PSMA and combat IUU fishing by making key vessel data available on the FAO Global Record and actively joining the full operationalisation of the PSMA Global Information Exchange System (GIES).
  • Data-sharing should be streamlined through improved data standardization and interoperability to address capacity and enforcement needs of industry and APEC Economies.
  • APEC Economies and the seafood industry Metacoalition should engage with FAO to communicate specific user needs in order to foster Global Record improvements, integration into data workflows, and support operationalisation of GIES.

The new Transparency Review is a clarion call for robust collaboration between APEC Economies and the seafood industry to improve fisheries transparency globally, implement the PSMA, and combat IUU fishing that is harming our ocean, our economy, and communities across the world.

Image: Fishing boats off Vietnam’s Phu Quoc island in October 2019. (Nikkei Asia)