UN Accord on Illegal Fishing Comes into Force

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The world’s first-ever international agreement specifically targeting illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing entered into force in June 2016.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that the accord’s importance in efforts to ensure sustainable fisheries and responsible fish stock management globally.

Collectively, the 29 countries and the European Union – which signed as a single party – that have formally committed themselves through their instruments of adhesion to the FAO Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA) account for more than 62% of worldwide fish imports and 49% of fish exports, which were $133 billion and $139 billion, respectively, in 2013.

The Port State Measures Agreement to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA), as it is officially known, will be the world’s first-ever binding multilateral effort directly targeting the issue.

Now that the required threshold has been reached, with 30 members having formally deposited their instruments of adherence, the agreement is set to enter into force on 5 June.

Each year, illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing is responsible for annual catches of up to 26 million tons, with a value of up to $23 billion.

The new treaty requires that parties designate specific ports for use by foreign vessels, making control easier. Those ships must request permission to enter ports ahead of time, and provide local authorities with information, including on the fish they have on board. The ships must also allow inspection of their log book, licences, fishing gear and actual cargo, among other things.

The agreement calls on countries to deny entry or inspect vessels that have been involved in illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and to take necessary action.

To support this, the agreement also includes the obligation for parties to share information regionally and globally, regarding any vessels discovered to be involved in such fishing.

The following States are Parties to the agreement: Australia, Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, European Union – Member Organization, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Iceland, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Palau, Republic of Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Tonga, United States, Uruguay and Vanuatu.

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