Criminalising IUU Fishing as a Response to Human Security Concerns?

#IUUfishing #IUU #FisheriesCrime

Note: This blog post is a summary of a presentation that took place in June this year at the British International Studies Association’s annual conference.The full draft that formed the basis for the presentation is accessible via this link.

Abstract:

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing has been associated with human security concerns. Domestically, security concerns may be addressed through the prescription and enforcement of criminal law provisions. However, prescribing and enforcing criminal law in regard to activities occurring in distant water areas, where IUU risks endure, is less straightforward. This conference presentation argued that the interests of flag and coastal States in the criminalisation of IUU fishing and related activities as a response to security concerns differ, and outlined possible avenues for legal development.

Introduction:

According to the relevant literature, IUU fishing and activities commonly associated to it have been linked to human security concerns. IUU fishing has been argued to have food and work security implications for vulnerable populations, and to enhance the vulnerability to crime of persons involved in the industry. The human security narratives encapsulated in the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development largely capture these human security concerns. By contrast, more traditional security conceptualisations, underpinned by territorial perspectives, may be less responsive to the type of risks posed by  IUU fishing.

In this presentation, I argued that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, conceived on a territorial jurisdictional blueprint, disincentivises but does not ultimately preclude criminalisation as a State response to undesirable fishing activities. However, analysis of international law and policy materials suggests that divergent interests in criminalisation as a tool to address human security are identifiable in regard to flag and coastal States. Two case studies were relied on for analysis. The first one concerns Spain, a distant water fishing State where one of the country’s highest courts withheld jurisdiction in respect of alleged acts of criminality by Spanish nationals in the context of high seas IUU fishing. The second one concerns Fiji, an archipelagic State where intensive tuna fishing by unidentified foreign industrial fishing vessels around the outer borders of the State’s exclusive economic zone was reported in 2014 to have caused problems that could be characterised as possessing a human security dimension.

The presentation concluded with a reflection on the necessity for international consensus, particularly amongst coastal States involved in regional fisheries arrangements and institutions, in order to develop domestic as well as international frameworks that secure appropriate responses to the risks posed by IUU fishing.

Mercedes Rosello, July 2017.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Eradication of IUU Fishing

The sustainable use and conservation of the oceans is an objective recognised in the United Nation’s Agenda for 2030, as part of an overarching commitment to protect the planet from destructive production and consumption patterns.[1] The Agenda for Sustainable Development is a declaration establishing 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), and 169 associated targets that are meant to build on previous sustainable development commitments of the UN, and specifically address the unmet objectives of previous international sustainability agendas.[2]

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The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is global and aspirational, and is meant to be universally applicable. It has overarching objectives, namely the eradication of poverty and the realisation of a sustainable and resilient world with human rights at its centre.[3] In line with its broad objective to eliminate poverty, it addresses fisheries sustainability as an antidote to food insecurity and underdevelopment.[4] The sector’s sustainability is critically important to human wellbeing: around 12% of the world’s population depends on fisheries and aquaculture for work, and the sector supplies 17% of animal protein in human diets.[5] In addition, fisheries is strongly supportive of satellite economic sectors, particularly in developing island States.[6]

The role of fisheries in development is highlighted in SDG 2, but the prioritisation of policies for the sustainable use and conservation of the oceans is underlined by the adoption of an entire and ambitious goal, SDG 14. The goal is directly relevant to fishery production and utilisation, and to the improvement of fisheries institutions. For the purposes of IUU fishing control policies and their relationship to specific legal regimes, the following aspects of SDG 14 are important:

14.4 By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics.

14.6 By 2020, prohibit certain forms of fisheries subsidies which contribute to overcapacity and overfishing, eliminate subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from introducing new such subsidies, recognizing that appropriate and effective special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries should be an integral part of the World Trade Organization fisheries subsidies negotiation.

14.c Enhance the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and their resources, as recalled in paragraph 158 of “The future we want”.

SDG 14 is designed to work as a catalyst for the convergence of relevant governance strategies.[7] Specifically on the issue of the eradication of IUU fishing, SDG 14 situates targets in two interrelated but distinct contexts: On the one hand, the attainment of fairness in global trade through the regime of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the eradication of detrimental subsidies.[8] Secondly, the sound and accountable governance of natural resources as the underpinning to just societies at a global level.[9] It is in this second context that SDG 14.4 sets a target to end IUU fishing as part of the commitment of restoring fish stocks to maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels by 2020. SDG 14.c specifically links this objective with the requirement to implement international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of oceans. Allegiance to UNCLOS and its satellite treaties is therefore at the core of SDG 14, and all States with an interest in the sustainable management of living marine resources ought to prioritise ratification or accession, and domestic implementation. Further, they should clearly outline their commitment to UNCLOS in the context of international cooperation.

Finally, IUU fishing is one of the intractable problems of our time, and its complexity must not be underestimated. It both impacts and is impacted by corruption and poor governance, lax implementation of international law and global policy objectives, underdevelopment and marginalisation, and a lack of participation of the appropriate stakeholders in conservation, management and compliance policies. Hence, the objectives of SDG 14 must not be considered in isolation. The following are also relevant:

Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and amongst countries:

10.6 Ensure enhanced representation and voice for developing countries in decision-making in global international economic and financial institutions in order to deliver more effective, credible, accountable and legitimate institutions. 

Goal 16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels: 

16.6 Develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels.

Target 16.6 inherits part of the meaning of Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration, whereby it is recognised that environmental issues are best handled in a manner that permits participation by members of the public. This principle led to the adoption of the 1998 ECE Aarhus Convention.[10]

Goal 17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development data, monitoring and accountability:

17.18 By 2020, enhance capacity-building support to developing countries, including for least developed countries and small island developing States, to increase significantly the availability of high-quality, timely and reliable data disaggregated by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location and other characteristics relevant in national contexts.

17.19 By 2030, build on existing initiatives to develop measurements of progress on sustainable development that complement gross domestic product, and support statistical capacity-building in developing countries.

Mercedes Rosello, October 2016.

References:

[1] United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), ‘Transforming our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ (2015) A/Res/70/1.

[2] Report of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 3–14 June 1992, vol. I, Resolutions Adopted by the Conference (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.93.I.8 and corrigendum), resolution 1, annex I. 2012 Rio +20 Conference ‘The Future We Want’, which culminated in the adoption of a Resolution for, amongst other objectives, the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals. Report of the International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, 5–13 September 1994 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.95.XIII.18), chap. I, resolution 1, annex.7. Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 4–15 September 1995 (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.96.IV.13), chap. I, resolution 1, annex II.

[3] UNGA Res 70/1, Preamble.

[4] UNGA Res 70/1, para 24.

[5] FAO SOFIA 2016, pp. 81.

[6] Ibid.

[7] FAO SOFIA 2016, pp 82.

[8] UNGA Res 70/1, paras. 27 and 30.

[9] UNGA Res 70/1, paras 33 and 35.

[10] Freestone, D ‘Problems of High Seas Governance’ in Vidas D and Schei PJ (Eds) The World Ocean in Globalization: Climate Change, Sustainable Fisheries, Biodiversity, Shipping, Regional Issues (2011) 127.

IUU fishing in Thailand: a view from the port of Phuket

A few locals in Phuket gave me their views on the fishing vessel lockdown, in place following the moratorium imposed by the Ministry of Fisheries. This and other measures that the Thai fishing industry has had to implement have been largely prompted by an official warning by the European Union issued to Thailand on the 21st of April 2015. The warning or ‘yellow card’ was issued on multiple, and serious, grounds involving a number of failures in the exercise of public authority by Thailand, in its capacity as flag State as well as coastal State.

IMG_0059

Cephalopod vessel in the waters of Thailand

The warning had followed several visits, discussions and formal written exchanges between the Thai government and the European Commission. The latter publicly indicated serious concerns over Thailand’s record as a flag State, including its existing legal regime and administrative exercise of regulatory powers in respect of fleet control, monitoring and sanctioning. Issues flagged in the Commission’s Decision include the recurrent identification of Thai IUU fishing vessels and trade flows, unauthorised fishing activities by Thai vessels in the high seas and in coastal State waters, and the failure by Thai vessels to carry operative VMS on board in high seas areas and in the exclusive economic zones of coastal States that require it.

Additionally, a poor and antiquated monitoring regime had enabled Thai vessel operators to feed false information to Thai, regional and European authorities concerning catches, areas of operation and vessel identity. The Decision went on to highlight that infractions had been insufficiently acted upon by authorities, and sanctioning had been found to be either non-existent or inadequate. The Commission also indicated that Thailand may have been in breach of its flag State obligations under Article 94(2)(b) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

As a coastal State, Thailand was found to have allowed the fish stocks in waters under its jurisdiction to endure a vast degree of overfishing leading to sharp decline. It is believed, according to the Decision, that over 95% of catches (including those of the artisanal fleet) may have gone unreported. The management of Thai jurisdictional waters would therefore be far from being carried out at optimum levels for sustainability, and this is coupled with endemic fishing vessel registration practices that are not only highly deficient, but marred by tensions and contradictory data held by different departments. In addition, fish stock exhaustion due to overfishing encouraged more of the local vessels to harvest what they can by whatever means, including the illegal and destructive.

By the time of my visit, the Thai fishing industry’s image and reputation had been severely tarnished by the uncovering by NGOs of extensive networks of migrant smuggling from neighbouring, impoverished countries. Ensuing reports have highlighted the human tragedies behind the poorly controlled growth of the industry.

Thailand is a regional powerhouse in seafood production and processing, with exports thought to be in the region of €6Bn. These industries are hungry for workers, frequently supplied by impoverished neighbouring countries. According to now widely reported investigations, immigrants have been lured under false promises of a better life, but once embarked and at sea their fates often depend exclusively on luck and resilience. Deficient technical and legal controls and police indifference or even collusion in ports and borders, alongside toxic economic drivers, have respectively enabled and rewarded the exploitation and abuse of people, and the ruin of the marine environment and the living resources it contains.

The moratorium on fishing vessels is seen by the locals I spoke to as a necessary evil, despite vocal opposition from some quarters in the fishing and tourism industries. There have been exceptions to the moratorium: Small cephalopod vessels are operating at night, easily identifiable due to their bright lights, seeking to emulate the full moon on a daily basis along the southernmost coast of the Phuket island.

The moratorium appeared to been largely respected at the time of writing, although there were rumours of unregistered illegal boats still at sea, and the issue of registration of these unaccountable fleets has been fraught with difficulties, controversies and delays. There is also a concern that the new VMS control tools will be unable to monitor the illegals, and that unless the local fishermen are prepared to report the illegal activity of others to the authorities, many will go undetected. Finally, the junta has prepared rules for the application of punishing fines on those who operate illegally, with the focus now turned on whether monitoring measures will be sufficient to enable the identification and arrest of those who break the newly implemented measures.With many of these fishermen on the bread line, this goes beyond being a conservation issue, affecting the social fabric of many communities as well their immediate and long term futures. There are no easy solutions here.

A related problem is the inability to prove illegal fishing offences in maritime areas with poor delimitation, an issue that continues to mar the wider region and shows few signs of relenting.

Yet, amongst all the uncertainty, there is a small amount of positivity. There have been reports of recovery in the biodiversity of the area since the implementation of the moratorium. Although such localised reports are not in any way akin to a scientific nod on biomass recovery, the fact that observable changes are being reported after only a short time of restraint is seen as positive news. Here is hoping that this small sign of recovery may provide some much needed encouragement for the long journey to sustainability that lies ahead.

Mercedes Rosello, August 2015

Sources & Links:

European Commission Decision of 21 April 2015: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.C_.2015.142.01.0007.01.ENG

Thai Fishing Roadmap: http://www.thaigov.go.th/index.php/en/issues/item/91850-91850.html

Thailand’s reported seafood exports: http://news.thaivisa.com/thailand/thai-fishery-sector-hopeful-of-smoother-waters-ahead-after-strenuous-attempts-to-get-house-in-order/127031/

EJF Media: http://ejfoundation.org/news/thailands-seafood-slaves

UNODC Report on Organised Transnational Crime in the Fishing Industry: http://www.unodc.org/documents/human-trafficking/Issue_Paper_-_TOC_in_the_Fishing_Industry.pdf

Operation Sparrow: a Landmark in the Fight against IUU Fishing (Reblog)

We close the year reblogging this post, first published on IUU WATCH. May we wish you all a very prosperous new year 2016!

Summary

The EU IUU Regulation has been a pioneering initiative, placing the EU at the helm of the global fight against IUU fishing. However, one challenge that continues to mar efforts to address IUU fishing is the identification of European interests behind IUU fishing operations. Spain, the EU’s largest fishing nation and a flagship State in EU fisheries, has implemented domestic legislation to address this problem. The legal measures have recently been put to the test through the launch of Operations Sparrow and Sparrow 2.

The full blog post can be accessed here: http://www.iuuwatch.eu/2015/12/operation-sparrow-a-landmark-in-the-fight-against-iuu-fishing/

IUU: Is it a bird or a plane? Is it illegal fishing, unregulated fishing or crime? Look to the Fish Stocks Agreement for answers

The first global instrument to introduce the expression IUU fishing was the 2001 International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA), a non-binding international tool.

Known as a toolbox for States to guide them in the fight against undesirable fishing practices, the IPOA is extensively referenced as the source of the definition of IUU fishing, contained in its paragraph 3. This definition has now been integrated in treaty law, the legal regimes of several States, and European Union legislation. Yet, despite its popularity, the term is controversial due to its lack of legal clarity.

In this blog post we explain that, rather than understanding the term as a single tool with which to assess conduct, it is useful to think of it as three distinct but overlapping categories. Each category presents a different perspective on undesirable fishing activities. Except for the first one, which is all-encompassing in its descriptive simplicity, the categories are not comprehensive. Further, they do not comprise a set of standards on which to judge the illegality of a fishing operation, or the conduct of a State in respect of its international obligations. In this respect, the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement is better equipped to deal with such tasks.

First and second categories: illegal and unreported fishing

Cephalopod vessel in the waters of Thailand

Cephalopod vessel in the waters of Thailand

The first category, that of illegal fishing, is set out in paragraph 3.1 of the IPOA. It is a straightforward description of what makes a fishery conduct a wrong in law at the domestic and international levels.

Firstly, domestically: when the conduct of a vessel (a more accurate reference would be to the person or persons responsible for its operation) contravenes applicable domestic law, it is illegal. Secondly, internationally: certain conducts by vessels may demonstrate a shortfall by the State responsible for their control in the observance of its international legal obligations.  When this occurs, there may be an international wrong.

Ultimately, however, whether any illegality has indeed occurred will need to be determined by a relevant authority. Domestically, this may be an administrative authority or a court of law. Internationally, a tribunal with jurisdiction.

A second category, that of unreported fishing, is set out in paragraph 3.2 of the IPOA. Domestically, it refers to vessel conducts that contravene the specific laws that regulate the reporting of fishing activity or catch. Internationally, paragraph 3.2 goes on to refer to activities that contravene the rules of regional fishery management organisations (RFMOs) in areas of the high seas where they have regulatory competence. The reference to a contravention implies that the subject (a State) must have agreed to abide by those rules [Ref 1]. If such State permits a vessel in its register to operate in a manner that is inconsistent with those rules, the State may be committing an international wrong. Hence, domestically as well as internationally, unreported fishing is a sub-category of illegal fishing. Curiously, other than RFMO rules no reference is made in the IPOA to the contravention of international laws that oblige States to report on fishery data. Given this incompleteness, unreported fishing has little value as a legal category beyond national and regional management contexts.

These categories describe what illegality looks like, but they do not act as legal yardsticks. Domestically, the illegality of a fishing activity can only be determined by way of assessment of the conduct of an operator against the applicable municipal laws by a competent authority. These laws may vary from country to country. However, before the birth of the IPOA, the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement (FSA) had already typified a number of fisheries activities that it referred to as serious violations. State parties to the FSA are required to address those violations in their respective domestic legal regimes. The non-exhaustive list in FSA Article 21.11 includes conducts such as fishing without authorisation, failing to report catch, using destructive fishing gear, or obstructing an investigation by concealing evidence, to name a few. Hence, in FSA State parties at least, those will be the conducts that will be restricted or outlawed – they will be the illegal fishing conducts to which the IPOA refers or, at least, some of them.  

Reef fish in the Celebes Sea, a frequent target of dynamite fishing

Reef fish in the Celebes Sea, a frequent target of dynamite fishing

However, the regulatory influence of the FSA does not extend to non-parties, or to the conservation and management of stock that is neither straddling nor highly migratory. Where non-transboundary stock is located in the EEZ of a coastal State, it is left to the discretion of that State to determine what fishing activities should be restricted or outlawed. It will need to do this within the general parameters of international law, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other treaties to which it is bound, including bilateral agreements.

Whether illegal fishing conducts may also be typified as criminal will depend on the discretion of each State. The FSA does not oblige State parties to criminalise any fishery behaviours, only to address certain conducts as serious violations. Most countries choose to do this by way of non-criminal public law and administrative measures. Currently, illegal fishing is not considered a transnational crime in accordance with the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, and therefore States are not obliged to treat it as such. Further, the IPOA discourages this, considering the rigours of criminal law in terms of proof and process too onerous. It is, however, noteworthy that some States have chosen to criminalise some specific conducts associated to illegal fishing practices (click here for information in respect of criminalisation in Korea). In other cases, strategy documents have referred to illegal fishing as a crime, but the relevant legislators have failed to adopt the necessary laws to ensure criminalisation in their domestic regimes (click here for information on the integrated maritime security strategy of the African Union).

Finally, a domestic instance of illegal fishing – whether criminal or not – will be of little significance internationally unless an international legal standard of conduct has also been contravened by a State with responsibility. At the time of writing, such legal standards are principally found in general international law, UNCLOS, the 1995 Compliance Agreement and, in respect of straddling and highly migratory stock, the FSA. Whilst several paragraphs of the IPOA have substantially defined some of those rules, its voluntary nature makes it unsuitable as a yardstick against which the conduct of a State can be assessed in order to determine its possible illegality.

Third category: unregulated fishing

The third category, unregulated fishing, is set out in paragraph 3.3 of the IPOA. It has two distinct prongs:

The first one refers to activities carried out inside areas and for stocks under the regulatory competence of RFMOs, in a manner that is inconsistent with their conservation rules. Such activities must be carried out by vessels without nationality, or by vessels flying the flag of a State that has not agreed to be bound by the rules that RFMO (for States who have agreed to this, the activity contravening the rules would be categorised as illegal fishing, as explained above). In effect, this label is slightly misleading, because the sea areas and stocks to which it refers are regulated by RFMOs, notwithstanding the States or vessels’ choice to disregard such regulation.

Transhipment in the Central Pacific (www.underwatertimes.com)

Transhipment in the Central Pacific (Source: http://www.underwatertimes.com)

The second prong refers to activities carried out in a manner inconsistent with the flag State’s international obligations in respect of high seas areas or stocks not affected by RFMO conservation or management rules. Hence, the label unregulated fishing here refers to the absence of RFMO rules.

Although superficial reading of paragraph 3 of the IPOA may suggest that unregulated fishing is an entirely separate category from illegal fishing and is therefore legal, this is not the case. As paragraph 3.4 of the IPOA subsequently clarifies, unregulated fishing will also be illegal if it is inconsistent with the flag State’s international obligations. Beyond obligations acquired in the institutional context of RFMOs, States also have conservation and cooperation obligations derived from general international law and applicable treaty law. However, the protection offered to those ocean areas and stocks by international law is generally considered thin and unclear in practical terms, making assessments of legality particularly difficult. This is specially so in cases where States have not agreed to important treaties such as the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or the 1993 Compliance Agreement, or where no other binding rules (such as those that may be established in a bilateral agreement) exist.

Hence, unregulated fishing is a wide spectrum category comprising high seas activities that are always pernicious insofar as they undermine conservation and cooperation efforts, but whose illegality may be uncertain in accordance with the current international framework. The value of this category lies not in its ability to facilitate an assessment of what may constitute legal or illegal conduct, but in its usefulness to ascribe a negative value to certain fishing activities irrespective of their illegality. This can be practical for a State or group of States who have adopted certain conservation rules, and have to deal with other States who have not done so. The conserving States may be reluctant to commence international proceedings against the non-conserving States for many reasons, ranging from the political undesirability of engagement in a high profile dispute, to cost, to lack of confidence in the international legal framework, to name a few. In this context, such States may opt for the deployment of trade measures against non-conserving States. Amongst the advantages of this process are the presence of incentives, as well as the avoidance of the rigours associated to international legal process. Subject to a number of procedural conditions, if the products from the non-conserving States have been captured in a manner that is detrimental to conservation and are excluded by the conserving States on the basis of a non-discriminatory process, they may be considered compliant with the rules of the World Trade Organisation and be, therefore, viewed as legitimate. See the commentary on the Shrimp Turtle decision of the WTO Appellate Body in respect of Paragraph (g) in Article XX of the 1994 GATT for more information.

Conclusion

The ‘hold all’ composite term IUU Fishing is instrumental in ascribing a negative value to a wide range of fishing and fishery support activities whose illegality is uncertain in order to enhance the accountability of operators and States through trade measures. Beyond this, paragraph 3 of the IPOA does not constitute a proper standard against which the conduct of an operator or a State can be legally assessed by a relevant administrative or judicial authority. Its voluntary nature makes it unsuitable for this task in any event. Appropriately therefore, the IPOA does not list actual behaviours by private actors that States can then domestically class as illegal. By contrast, the FSA does contain such list in respect of fishery activities targeting straddling and highly migratory species. The list in its Article 21.11 should be replicated, expanded and changed where necessary to be made applicable to non-transboundary stocks across domestic regimes, and in the context of bilateral fishery agreements [Ref 2]. This, plus the treaty’s integral management of RFMO conservation consent by State parties makes its adoption and implementation essential in the management of illegal fishing and the delimitation of unregulated fishing to cases where there is no RFMO regulation. The FSA is, therefore, an essential tool in the regulation of fisheries and the eradication of illegal practices, and States should work hard to foster its generalised adoption alongside the adoption of national plans of action and the Port State Measures Agreement.

[Ref 1] Theilen, Jens T. “What’s in a Name? The Illegality of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.” International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law 28, no. 3 (2013): 533–50.

[Ref 2] The list in FSA Art. 21.11 has been replicated and expanded upon by Council Regulation (EC) 1005/2008 (the EU IUU Regulation).

Towards compulsory IMO numbers: EU seeks amendments to three IOTC resolutions

A quick look at the 2013 list of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) shows why fishing illegally is an easy option for some: The vast majority of vessels in the list are only identified by temporary markers.

There is little evidence of where they are registered or what may be their true identity, since names and call signs can be changed. Only one vessel in the list carries an indelible mark of its true identity: A unique number assigned to it by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Until December 2013 traditional fishing vessels – however large – had been exempted by the IMO of the obligation to obtain a number. Now this exemption no longer exists, but it is up to IMO member flag States to change their internal laws to effectively bind their fishing vessels to the obligation of obtaining an IMO number.

Three Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) have put in place requirements for large fishing vessels registered to fish in their areas to obtain IMO numbers. These are CCAMLR, ICCAT and WCPFC.

Despite claims to the contrary, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) have not put in place an effective obligation for vessels over 24 metres registered to fish in its catchment area to obtain IMO numbers: The wording of resolutions 13/2 and 13/7 reads as simply enabling the notification of the fishing vessel IMO number to the IOTC once obtained.

An amendment has been proposed this month by the European Union to correct this. It requests that all IOTC craft authorised to operate in the area and any foreign vessels fishing in the IOTC for regulated species are obliged to obtain an IMO number by 1 January 2016.

Photo Credit: Richard White, Lindblad Expeditions

Vessels positioned for transhipment (credit: Richard White, Lindblad Expeditions)

Further, the proposal also concerns an older IOTC resolution (12/05) whereby large long-liners are authorised to carry out transhipment operations in the IOTC area. Resolution 12/05 does not mention IMO numbers, but the proposal intends to introduce a compulsory requirement for the IMO number of vessels receiving catch during transhipment to be communicated to the IOTC.

Source: http://www.iotc.org/documents/imo-number-establishing-programme-transhipment-large-scale-fishing-vessels-european-union-

Maritime insecurity and sustainable development: building bridges of knowledge

As a social species we human beings rely on communication to achieve our individual and common ends, but work in collaborative initiatives can often highlight the limitations of language. Having participated in a great seminar on Maritime Security and Sustainable Development coordinated by Coventry University’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies, it was interesting to hear other people’s opinion on this very subject.

One aspect of discussions that drew attention from attendees, rapporteurs and coordinators was the differing perspectives and understandings that people from different research disciplines can attach to simple words. An attendee commented on how the word ‘risk’, for example, could mean widely different things to people from diverse professional backgrounds. The importance of making an effort to see how someone may be relating to a topic under discussion cannot be overestimated: communication barriers can stop a project before it starts as potential stakeholders can misunderstand the relevance of an issue to them or their business.

At the seminar, the notion that maritime security and sustainable development are distinct academic and professional fields created difficulty when debating concept overlap. Yet, building bridges of knowledge between the areas of maritime security and sustainable development is not as counter-intuitive as it may at first appear. This became apparent when our seminar group began to explore the nature of policy and research stakeholders that would have an interest in each field: before long it became clear that the overlap was so substantial that the stakeholder lists were practically identical. Further debate exposed some causal factors that link both issues, such as the breakdown of the rule of law and failed maritime policies (not necessarily always associated to failed or fragile States). Certainly illegal fishing can be understood as a manifestation of both maritime insecurity and unsustainable resource allocation, development and commercial policies.

Along similar lines, at the 2014 Fishery Dependency Information Conference held in Rome, conclusions seem to have been revolving around the need to break down communication barriers between fishery stakeholders and scientists. Collaboration is key and mutual trust and understanding is not only desirable but vital for the achievement of reliable data and a genuine understanding of human impacts on the marine environment.

Breaking down communication barriers means bringing together disparity and promoting knowledge, inclusivity and respect. Bridging understanding gaps ultimately unites people in the pursuit of a common goal – we need those bridges of knowledge to bring the fragments together and understand the whole: devising truly sustainable ocean utilisation policies depends largely on this.