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United Nations: Agreement on Illegal Fishing

(July 22, 2016) In a July 1, 2016, statement, the Director-General of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, lauded an agreement on illegal fishing which, although concluded on November 22, 2009, just came into force on June 5, 2016. The Director-General stated that “[g]enerations to come will recognize the importance of this achievement … .” (UN Agency Urges Implementation of Accord to Tackle Illegal Fishing, UN NEWS CENTRE (July 12, 2016); Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (Nov. 22, 2009) (the Agreement), FAO website.)

According to the Abstract attached to the Agreement, the pact “seeks to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing through the adoption and implementation of effective port State measures as a means of ensuring the long-term conservation and sustainable use of living marine resources.” (Abstract, id.) The FAO stated that the Agreement will increase regional and international cooperation and will help harmonize port rules.  It noted that the “Agreement is binding and stipulates minimum port States measures. However, countries are free to adopt more stringent measures than those outlined in the Agreement.” (The Benefits of Ratifying and Implementing the 2009 FAO Port State Measures Agreement, FAO website (last visited July 18, 2016).)

The Treaty is the first binding international agreement concerned with illegal fishing; at present more than 30 individual countries and the European Union have acceded to it. It establishes a requirement for foreign vessels to permit inspections at all ports and for nations with ports to control how their own fishing fleets behave. It seeks to prevent illegally caught fish from coming ashore and being sold, thus making improper fishing unprofitable. (UN Agency Urges Implementation of Accord to Tackle Illegal Fishing, supra.)

Graziano da Silva has noted that due to limited resources, some countries will have difficulty implementing the Agreement. (Id.) It specifies that “Parties shall cooperate to establish appropriate funding mechanisms to assist developing States in the implementation of this Agreement.” (Agreement, art. 4, supra.) The FAO is also establishing an inter-regional “Technical Cooperation Programme” and a “Global Capacity Development Umbrella Programme” to help put the provisions of the Agreement into effect. Graziano da Silva said that the “FAO is working to deliver immediate support to those countries that are most in need of it.” (UN Agency Urges Implementation of Accord to Tackle Illegal Fishing, supra.)

The FAO estimates that the up to 26 million tons of fish caught improperly each year have a value of about $23 billion. The illegal activity puts marine ecosystems in jeopardy and harms the incomes and food security of millions of fishermen. (Id.)