The US, the EU and IUU – Part 2

Nobody can tackle IUU fishing alone: Will opportunities for global leadership be grasped?

Vessel suspected of IUU fishing awaiting auction in South Africa. Credit: Muscat Daily

Vessel suspected of IUU fishing awaiting auction in South Africa. Credit: Muscat Daily

Those who doubted the potential of the European Union’s Council Regulation 1005/2008 (the IUU Regulation) to change the laissez-faire culture that has been prevalent for too long in respect of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities inside and outside EU borders have had plenty of food for thought over the past four and a half years. In the time since the IUU Regulation came into force, the yellow card warning system, followed up on occasion by a trade-suspending red card, have seen a significant change in the administrative practices of a number of fish producing countries. Most importantly, the IUU Regulation has placed IUU fishing high in the agendas of nations that had previously not been predisposed to delve into the issue.

True, the regime is not perfect and there is yet much work to do to make a true dent in the global IUU trade. IUU fishing practices continue to cause vast losses to the worldwide economy (Eur. 10 Bn, according to the European Directorate for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries – DG Mare- which is equivalent to 19% of the reported value of catches worldwide). In addition, the destructive and insidious nature of IUU operations cause important harm not only to fish stocks and the marine environment, but also undermines every seafood producing fleet that plays by the rules. The ungovernable nature of covert IUU activities means that administrations that are keen to ensure sustainable exploitation have their work systematically undermined by the covert, dishonest nature of unreported captures.

Millions of people depend on seafood for nutrition as well as work and income, not just in producing countries, but also through the processing, importation and distribution and retail of seafood products. Further, many of those involved in fisheries have close, even ancestral, cultural ties to the activity. In many regions of the world (including of course the EU) domestic fishery production cannot match internal demand, and imports from third countries have become a necessity.

What this means, of course, is that the conservation and sustainable management of fishery resources is a collective, thoroughly intertwined effort of many actors and of very diverse nationalities. Nobody can tackle IUU fishing alone, irrespective of how much they may want to.

Yet, not everyone wants to. Routine commercial narratives evidence attitudes where business as usual, and turning a blind eye to stock erosion and illegality creep, are rife. A good illustration of such attitudes was a recent comment made to the Thai press by the head from a national fishery association, asserting his view that the yellow card presented to Thailand over IUU fishing by the EU must have more to do with protectionism and political intervention rather than with the relevance of Thailand’s mismanagement of the considerable presence of IUU activity in their production chains (not to mention the serious mistreatment of people, including their trafficking and abuse, marring the Thai seafood industry). If a comment ever represented a lack of consciousness as well as conscience, then this is it.

The interviewee’s suggestion that Thailand should seek to export to the Middle East, rather than put in an effort to clean up its act is sadly representative of a type of viewpoint that prioritises short-term, entrenched approaches that are not only ultimately doomed to failure, but which also represent a real risk for all administrations working toward long term, rational and fair approaches to seafood production and trade.

It is clear that a sustained collective effort is needed in order to address and change such attitudes and get to the root of IUU activity. With this in mind, the Presidential Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud has recently presented its Action Plan for Implementing the Task Force Recommendations has caused some degree of concern at House of Ocean. Whilst much of what is contained here is ambitious and commendable, it is striking that no mention is made anywhere in the report with regard to trade measure compatibility with existing programmes and regimes. In particular, coordination with the EU is only mentioned in the context of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) agreement, the negotiations of which are still ongoing. No mention is made anywhere in the Action Plan of the specific measures adopted by the EU to combat IUU fishing to date, nor those adopted by Regional Fishery Management Organisations since the onset of the 21st Century. Perhaps the Task Force is reluctant to admit that the US has lagged behind in the development of IUU-specific trade measures?

However, it now has a golden opportunity to seek convergence with existing regimes, to make a substantial contribution to their improvement and expansion, and to become a formidable co-architect and a leading engineer in the fight against IUU operations. To sacrifice such an important global role for the sake of less cooperative solutions may only serve to perpetuate the tragedy of our ocean.

Sources

http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/documentation/publications/2015-04-tackling-iuu-fishing_en.pdf

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ia/iuu/noaa_taskforce_report_final.pdf

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/national/EUs-motive-behind-yellow-card-queried-30259466.html

 

 

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing & maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea: How does it affect the UK?

The UK Chamber of Shipping has this month published their report “How the Lack of Security in the Gulf of Guinea Affects the UK’s Economy”.

As the Chamber of Shipping rightly points out, IUU fishing is endemic in the Gulf of Guinea and is a threat to local fisheries and to the food and work security of people in the region.

Fishery depletion, which can be a direct result of repeated IUU fishing activity, has been identified as a contributing factor to instability and to the rising incidence of piracy.

Tuna imports from Ghana could be banned by the EU (photo credit: The Grocer)

Tuna imports from Ghana could be banned by the EU (photo credit: The Grocer)

Other maritime crimes in the region include hijacking of ships, theft at sea, organised crime linked to oil trading and the kidnapping of seafarers.

As the report indicates, maritime insecurity has a direct impact on the UK economy. Not only does it disrupt UK maritime trade and the safety of British people living and working in the region, it also impacts on the ability of UK companies to import goods from the Gulf of Guinea, including oil and LNG.

In respect of fish trade specifically, the UK imports a high volume of tuna from West Africa and the high incidence of illegal fishing in the Gulf of Guinea means that there is a risk of IUU contamination of UK-bound seafood supply chains.

The report highlights that £60 Million of tuna products from West Africa have been subject to regulatory interventions due to IUU fishing concerns.

Association with IUU fishing has placed Ghana under EU watch for possible sanctions, a situation that puts circa £50m worth of processed seafood imports into the UK at risk.

Full UK Chamber of Shipping report: http://www.ukchamberofshipping.com/media/filer_public/ba/8f/ba8f4c5e-8490-4f65-a4ff-0cab717acdc0/uk_chamber_of_shipping_gulf_of_guinea_paper-july_2014.pdf

Why Addressing Illegal Fishing Could Help Combat Piracy

Large fishing vessel operating in the South Pacific (Credit: www.afma.gov.au)

Large fishing vessel operating in the South Pacific (Credit: http://www.afma.gov.au)

There are many factors that may compromise fish abundance. Some, like the effects of raising temperature, acidification, algal blooms or changing currents can be difficult to predict and act upon. But illegal fishing is one cause of stock depletion that can be addressed and controlled.

Our grossly oversized global fishing fleets are engaged in a fierce effort to capture their share of a decreasing volume of fish stocks. This level of competition, plus a lack of effective fishing vessel controls encourage illegal fishing, organised transnational fisheries crime and cross-over criminal activities.[1]

Like other types of unlawful maritime activity, illegal fishing takes place with more frequency and intensity in coastal maritime regions that governments are less able to monitor, access and control. In these areas, legitimate economic activities have little official protection against the threat of abuse and crime.

Large industrial vessels can illegally harvest vast quantities of fish that subsistence fisherfolk in vulnerable areas depend on. Local official corruption frequently results in the illegal operators being protected and encouraged to act again. Given the efficiency of modern fishing vessels, protracted predatory incursions into the traditional fishing grounds of others may cause enduring fish depletion.[2]

The collapse of fish stocks and ensuing marine environmental degradation are good reasons to put illegal fishing control high on governments agendas. However, recent research by Markus Ludwig and Matthias Fluckiger, of the University of Basel, has highlighted an additional, compelling reason why illegal fishing should be stopped: Piracy.

Photo Credit: Fara Abdi Warsameh, Associated Press

Photo Credit: Fara Abdi Warsameh, Associated Press

Narratives linking foreign illegal fishing as a driver for piracy are not new (see, for example, the work of Bueger on Somali piracy as a form of fisheries vigilantism in Somalia).[3]

However, the Basel University study is novel, taking a wide snapshot of data from 109 coastal countries on the strength of an original, objective methodology to draw its conclusion: That a significant decrease in fish catches can encourage piracy in fishing communities.

The study found that a 1% increase in fish catches can result in a decrease in piracy activity by 1%. The researchers point out that detected increases in piracy activity are likely to be a reaction to the temporary lack in available legitimate income opportunities, rather than a willingness to engage in lifelong criminal careers.

According to the study, the effect of negative fishery productivity changes can be far-reaching, given the detrimental effect that piracy can have on maritime economic activities like transport and other trade.

The logical conclusion is that combatting illegal fishing and prioritising policy measures to discourage it including the prosecution of those involved in fisheries illegality and crime may also be seen as tool to reducing incentives for piracy.

For access to the paper by Ludwig and Fluckiger, see http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/56959 .

[1] For more information on this topic, see Interpol’s Project Scale http://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Environmental-crime/Resources .

[2] For a recently reported example, see the case of the Fiji tuna fisheries http://www.undercurrentnews.com/2014/01/20/fiji-tuna-groups-cut-down-fleet-as-industry-faces-total-collapse/ .

[3]http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01436597.2013.851896#.U75_EdxU3fM .

 

Illegal Fishing and Maritime Security

Why IUU Fishing is a Security Concern

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has singled out illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as one of the main factors contributing to fishery depletion and a key obstacle to achieving sustainability. IUU fishing and overfishing have already affected the food security of vulnerable populations on land (see, for example, the Madagascar food security study carried out by Le Manach et al in 2012 concerning unreported fishing and stock decline, or the work of EJF in Sierra Leone).

Photo Credit: Richard White, Lindblad Expeditions

At a time when fish has a growing importance in feeding the world (FAO, 2014) and against a backdrop of a rapidly increasing human population, the environmental impacts of IUU fishing and legal overfishing are a food security time bomb. In addition, pollution and climate change may also be undermining the ocean’s ability to produce food.

In addition to human security concerns, industrial scale IUU fishing is frequently linked to instances of maritime crime.  Tax evasion, corruption and document forgery can form an integral part of IUU fishing operations. Further, transnational organised crime such as human trafficking can be facilitated by the lack of coordinated surveillance under which fishing vessels routinely operate (UNODC, 2011).

IUU fishing may feed off land insecurity issues that have the effect of impoverishing communities to the point of forcing displacement. Uprooted individuals are routinely trafficked into forced labour, slavery and torture on board of fishing vessels (for real life slavery examples see the case of the Samudera Pasific 8 and the Merkat Bejala here).

UNODC experts have also found substantial evidence of extensive utilisation of fishing vessels for drug trafficking. Research suggest that significant volumes of cocaine and heroin have been seized by coast guards, police and port authorities in Africa, South America and Europe that were being trafficked on board of fishing vessels. Traffickers operated successfully whilst performing fake as well as real fishing voyages (see, for example http://www.ticotimes.net/2014/06/11/costa-rican-coast-guard-seizes-historic-4-1-metric-tons-of-cocaine).

Illicit activities carried out by fishing vessels at sea are frequently “invisible”. Fishing vessels are exempt from the requirement of having AIS satellite trackers on board and many are not required to have working transponders (Vessel Monitoring Systems, or VMS) on board either.

Crime can be difficult to detect at sea.

Crime is difficult to detect at sea.

The result is that fishing vessel operations at sea are seldom detectable by flag and coastal States. It is not uncommon for fisheries authorities to be unaware of transhipments carried out by the distant water fishing vessels they are responsible for overseeing (i.e. those on their registers or, in the case of coastal States, operating in their waters).

Although knowingly invisible, those who operate IUU fishing vessels seldom work blindly. As the annexed Interpol notice shows, some IUU vessels feature high masts fitted with radars so that the master can be aware of other vessels present in the vicinity.

In addition, unlike merchant ships, most fishing vessels can currently operate without a permanent International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number that can identify them when they change name, flag or owner. Although the IMO has recently removed the identification number fishing vessel exemption, States have generally continued to permit their fishing fleets to operate without it. Changing a fishing vessel’s name (or even its appearance) is easy, straightforward and is a common practice of operators that seek to circumvent their legal obligations.

IUU fishing is symptomatic of underlying insecurity factors. Examples include a lack of distributive justice in resource access opportunities (Molenaar, 2011), inadequate and/or fragile legal and institutional frameworks, an absence of integrated monitoring, control and surveillance mechanisms and the degradation of the observance of the rule of law in maritime spaces (Gallic, 2008).

Whilst the participation of coast guards and navies is key, IUU fishing cannot be addressed solely by tackling individual vessels and their crews. Successful policies must ensure that national laws empower government agencies so that perpetrators and the financial and institutional powers behind them can be dealt with appropriately.

Difficult issues such as the lack of accountability of flag States and the prevalence of toxic economic drivers must be confronted on an international scale (for more information concerning the need for accountability in ocean governance, see the work of the Global Ocean Commission here).

References:

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations). (2014). The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture.

EJF (Environmental Justice Foundation). (2013). Keeping Illegal Fish out of Europe: Ensuring Success for the IUU Regulation.

Le Gallic, B. (2008). The use of trade measures against illicit fishing: Economic and legal considerations. Ecological Economics, 64(4), 858-866.

Le Manach, F., Gough, C., Harris, A., Humber, F., Harper, S., & Zeller, D. (2012). Unreported fishing, hungry people and political turmoil: the recipe for a food security crisis in Madagascar?. Marine Policy, 36(1), 218-225.

Molenaar, E. J. (2011). Non-participation in the Fish Stocks Agreement: status and reasons. The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law, 26(2), 195-234.

UNODC. (2011). Transnational Organized Crime in the Fishing Industry. United Nations, Vienna, 2011.

 

Maritime Insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea: Illegal Fishing Matters

Like piracy, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing tends to occur in areas marred by insecurity challenges, underdevelopment and poor governance. The European Commission has identified IUU fishing as a key risk for its strategy purposes in the Gulf of Guinea.

Fishing vessel at sunset

Despite ongoing overexploitation concerns, the Gulf of Guinea continues to be a strategically important fishing ground for European fleets. The existence of bilateral fisheries agreements between the EU and Cape Verde, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe and Mauritania speak for themselves. Further, private licence agreements also provide European vessels with access to the EEZs of other nations in the region.

A recent article by Ioannis Chapsos (see full text here), of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies, also highlights the importance of the Gulf of Guinea as a source of oil and gas for the EU, particularly in the light of recent tensions with the Russian Federation (currently Europe’s key energy supplier). 

It is therefore hardly surprising that the EU is seeking to understand and address insecurity issues in the Gulf. What is interesting is that IUU fishing is being given such relevance in the context of European objectives. Perhaps this is a sign of the EU’s recognition that illegal fishing has a powerful destabilising potential. It can derail fledgling coastal development and resilience initiatives as well as persistently undermine attempts at sustainability in the fishing industry itself. 

Implementation efforts by the Gulf of Guinea Commission, ECCAS and ECOWAS concerning their ‘Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Ships and Illicit Activity in West and Central Africa’ will no doubt be key to future EU strategy development and outcomes.

With the region’s economic outlook and value as emerging market raising expectations despite persistent risks, there is unprecedented interest in IUU fishing, its effects on West Africa and, more widely, on Europe’s long term interests.

 

Overfishing is Mismanagement

Overfishing does more damage to the ocean than all other human activities together

Overfishing does more damage to the ocean than all other human activities together

The Economist brings two lucid articles on an obvious and yet hidden truth: the fact that the ocean is on its metaphorical knees. If the ocean was a bank account it would be careering towards the red at a blistering pace.

Many of us who have been studying fisheries policies and governance structures for a while have known for a long time that those responsible for administering the ocean have behaved like irresponsible managers, squandering it away.

In a way, we are all responsible. I heard someone say long ago that human beings are badly wired to see the whole picture and that we rush into taking the path to short-term gain without properly considering what the consequences of our actions will mean for other people’s children. This ignorant attitude has certainly characterised human domination over the oceans. Not only have we enshrined in law that ocean space beyond the exclusive reach of coastal States is a ‘free for all’ but we have refrained from exercising the required restraint to avoid the collapse of entire fisheries, rushing in for the kill in case anyone else would beat us to it.

Rampant overfishing has caused more harm to the ocean than all other human activities put together, according to the Economist articles. As a consequence of our actions, the ocean is losing its ability to sustain life. And the legal and governance frameworks that should stop this decline are woefully inadequate to be any use. And yet, better long term fisheries management would make the industry better off by an annual margin of $50 Bn, according to the World Bank.

Can the decline be helped? The are actions we could take, if we really cared. Responsible government agencies and NGOs have called for a global register of fishing vessels, a sort of registration number that does not change when the vessel is sold or renamed. Could you imagine cars without registration plates? Ships should have them too.

The other action is tracking technology. It is all very well to have marine protected areas, but there is no way of ensuring their integrity unless it is known where fishing vessels are. The technology already exists and there are few reasons not to use it. Heard of AIS? Cheap, available to everyone and widely used. It is time to stop the excuses and start using technology to track the whereabouts of fishing vessels.

Governments should demonstrate that they are capable of tracking the whereabouts of their fishing fleets. If they are not, their ability to licence ships for fishing should be removed by an international court. Vessel masters that want to fish in international or foreign waters will then have to register with a country that is responsible enough to track their vessels proactively and stop them from getting into places where they have no right to fish.

Many have decried insurmountable obstacles to achieve rational management of the fishing industry but, with today’s technological tools, the real reason lies in a lack of global vision and in myopic greed.

Putting it bluntly, overfishing is mismanagement and everyone knows what happens to badly managed stuff – after a while, it goes bust. When it comes to the ocean, that is something we simply cannot afford.

http://www.economist.com/news/international/21596990-humans-are-damaging-high-seas-now-oceans-are-doing-harm-back-deep-water

http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21596942-new-management-needed-planets-most-important-common-resource-tragedy-high

Shark carcasses at a wholesale market

Rampant overfishing is leading to ocean degradation.

Illegal fishing in the age of global GPS: governments talk whilst making little use of available technology

Conversations on the subject of illegal fishing tend to gravitate around regions of the world that are known poaching black spots (be it the historically fertile and vulnerable waters of West Africa, the tuna-rich waters of the Indian ocean or the South-Western Atlantic and its lucrative banks of tooth-fish).

Despite the deserved attention that those marine spaces are paid, it is worth remembering that the curse of illegal fishing also takes place much closer to home. Though European waters are (theoretically at least) amongst the better controlled marine regions in the world, it seems that a shocking amount of illegal activity takes place here too, right under our noses.

This week, a newspaper in Malta has highlighted that illegal fishing activity by large fishing trawlers has been more or less commonplace in the protected marine reserve that surrounds the island in recent years (see link below).

Apparently, Maltan authorities have been able to identify poaching activity by various means, but it looks like some key discoveries were down to the deployment of a simple and affordable surveillance tool: AIS. Whilst I am sure that they must have invested in other systems of detection, I can’t help wondering why they didn’t start using AIS before, since it is affordable and easy to use. Vessel crews can switch off their ship’s AIS, but it looks like they didn’t even bother doing this during their illegal incursions into the marine reserve.

Given that fisheries resources around the world are on their metaphorical knees, coastal nations should be watching their seas like hawks. And why are the flag States of the vessels doing the poaching not calling them to task as soon as they cross the line into a protected marine area or the border of an EEZ where they don’t have permission to fish? In the age of global GPS, satellite surveillance and smart-phones, it is increasingly difficult to believe that lack of technological resources is the real problem.

http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/en/newsdetails/news/national/New-control-centre-discovers-widespread-illegal-trawling-20140212