After several years of negotiations, countries have taken a major step against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), one of the greatest threats to sustainable fisheries and related livelihoods.
International guidelines developed through a Food and Agriculture Organisation- (FAO) led consultative process aim to cut down on IUU fishing by improving the accountability of flag states - those countries which register fishing vessels and authorize them to fly their flags.
The Voluntary Guidelines for Flag State Performance were agreed upon after over five years of consensus-building among FAO Member Countries. The guidelines will be presented to the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) for endorsement at its next Session in June 2014.
The guidelines include recommended approaches to encourage and help flag states comply with their international duties and obligations regarding the flagging and control of fishing vessels. They also present possible actions in response to non-compliance.
While no exact figures are known, it is widely accepted that IUU fishing has escalated in the past two decades and its magnitude is considerable.
The Technical Consultation was funded by the Governments of Canada, New Zealand, Norway and the US, and by the European Commission.
“The Voluntary Guidelines for Flag State Performance are a real breakthrough. They will be a valuable tool in efforts to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,” said Árni Mathiesen, FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries and Aquaculture.
“Ultimately, these guidelines can help to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of precious, living marine resources and ecosystems,” Mathiesen added. “We all face the challenge of sustainability, and these guidelines give countries a new way to work together to meet this challenge.”