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.

Illegal Fishing Control: Why Europe Needs a Common Software Platform

Council Regulation 1005 / 2008 (the IUU Regulation) is a European Union (EU) legislative tool designed to reinforce and support pre-existing normative measures established by the international community to control illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

 

Transhipment, Central Pacific (Image Credit: underwatertimes.com)

The potential of the IUU regulation to disincentivise IUU fishing practices gravitates around

  • the indisputable power of the EU as port and market State, and
  • on the ability of the EU to implement the IUU regulation in an even and watertight manner.

These are in fact like two sides of the same coin, since loopholes in implementation leading to IUU importation windows can de facto give rise to different standards within the common trade boundary and make coordination impossible.

A recent report offers an insight into progress made in implementing the Regulation, which came into force on the 1st of January 2010.[1] The report offers a useful overview of the different degrees of investment, reorganisation and resource reallocation in each of the Member States pursuant to the requirements of the IUU Regulation.

According to the authors, the catch certification system imposed by the Regulation has placed a heavy administrative burden on Member States. Implementation has been uneven and differences in approach cannot always be attributed to differences in patterns such as seafood trade volume, financial resilience or pre-existing know-how: Whilst large importers such as Denmark and Spain have developed interactive IU tools, others (including some with considerable importation volumes) have not done so. The same is true of intelligence data gathering processes.

For example, highly sophisticated IUU tracking software and data capture systems in Spain have not been replicated (and are not supported) in other Member States. This unevenness in the implementation of the Regulation leads to inefficiencies, penalises better implementation and causes potential diversions of legitimate trade.

Increased data and know-how sharing can address other weaknesses of the IUU Regulation such as the inability of the imports system to deter the duplication of catch certificates during processing operations in 3rd countries.[2] Increased knowledge and sharing of processing methodologies and conversion data could help address this issue.

As no common IT platform exists with the capability to cross-check import volumes, sources, fishing arts, time of capture and composition, States are rendered powerless to flag suspected IUU imports in a timely fashion.

This problem became manifest earlier this year when the Spanish government decided to suspend the importation of Vietnamese swordfish over IUU concerns.[3] According to Madrid sources, an audit identified a volume of 502 metric tonnes (mt) of swordfish captured in 2012 by Vietnamese vessels (according to catch certificate data) being imported into Spain despite Vietnam having declared to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries total capture volumes of only 372 mt for that time period. Vietnam exports swordfish to other European countries, but the capture declaration shortfall had not been identified in any other Member States.

Swordfish (xiphias gladius). Image Credit: fisherynation.com

Swordfish (xiphias gladius). Image Credit: fisherynation.com

If this is alarming, the potential discrepancy between the volumes of West & Central Pacific swordfish declared for 2012 and those actually captured is even more so.

A common software audit platform would enable European Fisheries authorities to identify IUU fishing importation trends as well as to ascertain species under-declaration volumes – such IUU trade-flows could then be used as solid, objective data upon which the Commission could identify third countries for potential inclusion in the EU non-cooperating third country list.

Perhaps this could even be integrated with the public EU alert system once it is operational, so that awareness of IUU fishing trade flows and vessel data and activity could be integrated, shared and uniformly acted upon.

Footnotes:

[1] To access the full MRAG report, click here: http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/documentation/studies/iuu-regulation-application/doc/final-report_en.pdf

[2] This weakness was also highlighted in a 2013 report published in April by Sasama and FMP Consulting. To access, click here http://sasama.info/en/pdf/reports_17.pdf)

[3] http://www.undercurrentnews.com/2014/06/30/spain-seeks-eu-wide-suspension-of-vietnamese-swordfish-imports/

European Policy on Illegal Fishing: Emergence of an International Trend?

Google Earth image featuring illegal fishing in European waters

Google Earth image featuring illegal fishing in European waters

Editor’s Note: This blog post was first published on http://iuufishing.ideasoneurope.eu on the 3rd of July 2014.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Union (EU) have 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.[1]

IUU fishing and overfishing have already affected the food security of vulnerable populations on land.[2]

At a time when fish has a growing importance in feeding the world, against a backdrop of our rapidly increasing human population, the environmental impacts of IUU fishing are a food security time bomb. This is made worse by the fact that pollution and climate change may also be undermining the ocean’s ability to produce food.

IUU fishing refers to fishing or fishing support activities performed in breach of fisheries management or conservation laws in national or international waters. It is a persistent phenomenon that thrives due to complex interactions.

IUU fishing is a complex problem, symptomatic of underlying factors that can also contribute to insecurity. Examples include a lack of distributive justice in resource access opportunities, inadequate and/or fragile legal and institutional frameworks, an absence of integrated monitoring, control and surveillance mechanisms and poor observance of the rule of law in maritime spaces.

For policies against IUU fishing to be successful, difficult problems such as the lack of governance accountability or the success of illegal global markets in wildlife and natural resources must be tackled.[3] The EU, current leader in the fight against IUU fishing, has developed a trade policy to address some of these issues.

In January 2010 the EU started to enforce a comprehensive system of port and market controls. By way of a pan-European law (Council Regulation 1005/2008 “the IUU Regulation”), the EU has devised a WTO-compatible methodology for detecting IUU fishing trade flows as well as identifying States that do not address the illegal fishing activities of their fleets.[4]

By engaging exporting States in a certification system that guarantees fish capture legality, the European Commission is able to identify exporting countries that allow IUU fishing trade flows to reach Europe. The Commission deals with this by working with such countries in the first instance, under a warning that failure to improve IUU fishing compliance controls may result in trade restrictions.

To date, the Commission has formally warned several countries, namely Panama, Fiji, Sri Lanka, Togo, Vanuatu, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Korea and Ghana. The European Council, following the Commission’s recommendation, has banned seafood imports from Guinea, Belize and Cambodia on IUU fishing concerns.[5]

The IUU Regulation also enables European governments to use port tools in the fight against IUU fishing. For example, it establishes a system of notifications and inspections for fishing vessels and refrigerated seafood cargo vessels. It has also established the foundations for the creation of an EU illegal vessel black list. Vessels that feature in this list are not able to access European ports for commercial purposes.

The fact that combatting IUU fishing is considered a priority in European policy is also exemplified by the recent publication of the Commission’s External Action Service ‘s Security Strategy for the Gulf of Guinea.[6] IUU fishing has been integrated in this document as a priority due to its impact on food security as well as its links with transnational organised crime.[7]

This is a policy trend with international echoes. It is unlikely to be coincidental that the African Union’s new strategy has this year been expanded to include IUU fishing. Further, in the United States, President Obama has recently announced the creation of a comprehensive framework to combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud.[8]

There have also been international developments, with the UN Fisheries Committee (COFI) formally endorsing the Guidelines for Flag State Performance. This voluntary instrument sets out a common minimum due diligence standard for combatting IUU fishing. COFI has also assessed the ratification status of the Port State Measures Agreement, an agreement widely hailed as a vital legislative tool to prevent illegally obtained seafood from entering the ports of signatory nations.

IUU fishing is a global problem that requires the collective, sustained effort of governments as well as industry and civil society. Despite the challenges, the above policy developments demonstrate that there is a deepening understanding of IUU fishing and a growing will to address it.

[1] The IUU strategy of the European Union is set out in the DG Mare website. For more information, please see http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/maritime_affairs_and_fisheries/fisheries_resources_and_environment/l66052_en.htm

[2] See, for example, the Madagascar food security study carried out by Le Manach et al in 2012 concerning unreported fishing and stock decline.
[3]https://www.europol.europa.eu/sites/default/files/publications/4aenvironmental_crime_threatassessment_2013_-_public_version.pdf
[4] http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/illegal_fishing/index_en.htm
[5] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-12-1215_en.htm
[6] http://eeas.europa.eu/statements/docs/2014/140317_01_en.pdf
[7] https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/2011/issue-paper-transnational-organized-crime-in-the-fishing-industry.html
[8] Full press release: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/06/17/presidential-memorandum-comprehensive-framework-combat-illegal-unreporte

What is IUU Fishing?

Post published by the House of Ocean on the 24th June 2014 on http://iuufishing.ideasoneurope.eu 

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a major global fisheries problem. It has undesirable effects on fish stock survival, the marine environment and on human populations. 

Illegal Trawling in the Canary Islands (Google Earth)

Illegal Trawling in the Canary Islands (Google Earth)

IUU fishing results from the failure of States to monitor the fishing activity of their vessels and to enforce laws and regulations. Because of its furtive nature, IUU fishing undermines measures to manage fisheries sustainably, directly affecting law-abiding fisheries actors that compete for the same stock whilst bearing more of the regulatory and financial burden.

A cause of food and work insecurity in vulnerable coastal nations, IUU fishing also distorts competition as fishing operators who avoid compliance with laws and regulations gain competitive advantage. It reduces fishing opportunities for law-abiding operators, putting lawful fisheries at risk.

IUU fishing has been linked to crime at sea, including the trafficking of human beings, protected wildlife, weapons and drugs.

Typical IUU fishing behaviours include fishing without a valid licence, not recording or communicating catch data, fishing in restricted areas, targeting unauthorised species, using banned gear, falsifying or concealing the vessel’s identity or itinerary, obstructing the work of inspectors or enforcers, targeting undersized fish, engaging in unauthorised transhipments, participating in fishing or fisheries support activities with vessels in an IUU black list or  operating in breach of the conservation and management measures of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations.

The European Commission has judged the situation to be sufficiently serious as to put in place systems whereby States that do not put measures in place to address IUU fishing are identified. The European Union has now formally warned Vanuatu, Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo, Korea, Ghana, Curacao, Philippines, and Papua New Guinea. Upon the Commission’s recommendation, The European Council took the decision earlier this year to ban seafood imports from Guinea, Belize and Cambodia, who are considered by the EU to be condoning IUU fishing.

The furtive nature of IUU fishing means that its true scale is difficult to calculate, though a 2009 study by Agnew D.J. and others suggests annual costs of between US $ 10 and 23.5 Billion. Around one-fifth of global marine captures is thought to be illegal in origin.

 

Illegal Fishing & Slavery Feed our Shrimp

The horrific story of slavery, torture and murder in the Thai shrimp farming industry revealed by the Guardian this week is not new. NGOs had raised alarm bells earlier year and some supermarkets and importers were aware of issues concerning human trafficking and abusive labour conditions (see March EJF report here).

Yet, as horrified western consumers recoil at the images and descriptions depicting the brutal treatment of those who produce their shrimp, one unfortunate myth continues to linger when it comes to farmed shrimp: that being farmed, they must be sustainable.

Trash Fish. Photo Credit: Reuters

Trash Fish. Photo Credit: Reuters

Farmed produce such as the shrimp in the Guardian’s story may well be fed by illegal fish and be tainted by abuse, crime and environmental degradation (to learn more about the environmental impact of shrimp farming, click here).

The shrimp in the Guardian’s story are fed with wild-caught fish. Wild fish caught by beaten down, terrified slaves on board of filthy fishing vessels. Sometimes the small fish, frequently unattractive to humans and hence referred to as ‘trash fish’, are caught by bottom trawlers using nets with tiny mesh that can devastate the marine environment.

Some trash fish can also be caught alongside tuna, a prime export to Western markets. Whilst tuna captures are recorded for exportation to carefully regulated European markets, no such measures are in place for the small fish destined to be ground-up in order to make shrimp and cattle feed.

Unfortunately for those slaves, farmed seafood products are not subjected to the same importation controls in the European Union as commercial wild-caught fish.

This loophole means that illegal fishing can indirectly enter our markets undetected and continue to fund abuse and devastation.

For the full Guardian story, click here: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/10/-sp-migrant-workers-new-life-enslaved-thai-fishing

Ghana responds to new EU warning over illegal fishing

The European Commission has warned Ghana that a single additional case of illegal, unreported & unregulated (IUU) fishing could bring about the closure of the entire EU market to Ghanaian fish exports.

Mr Bayon Bilijo, Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister, has held a press conference to update stakeholders on his government’s developments to tackle IUU fishing in response to this warning, which was issued during EU-Ghana talks in May.

According to the Minister, Ghana has adopted a plan of action to control illegal fishing and to better manage its fisheries resources. The country’s legislative framework has been reinforced and new fisheries regulations will be promulgated later this year. Mr Bilijo has also reassured interested parties that all Ghanaian tuna vessel have now been fitted with tracking systems (VMS) as required of all EU trading partners.

However, despite the Commission’s warning Ghana’s trawlers have not yet been fitted with VMS, though the Minister indicated that this will be addressed over coming weeks.

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)

The Ghanaian economy relies heavily on seafood processing and exportation to the EU and a ban could have deep repercussions in terms of revenue and employment losses. A local export firm, Myroc Food Processing (MFP), announced losses of $ 5 Million following the Commission’s formal warning (or ‘yellow card’) to Ghana in November 2013. MFP reportedly has had to reduce its workforce and export volumes substantially despite the fact that no ban is yet in place.

The European Commission’s decision to issue the yellow card was taken following significant IUU fishing concerns. These included notifications by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) regarding undisclosed cargo transfers (transhipments) between vessels flagged to Ghana in breach of ICCAT rules. To see the full text of the Commission’s decision, click here.

In April 2013, large amounts of processed tuna from Ghana were rejected upon arrival at port by Spain and other European countries. In the UK, the importation of numerous consignments of processed tuna from Ghana was suspended. Containers were kept in port incurring substantial quay rent whilst lengthy investigations into the IUU fishing allegations took place.

A ban on Ghanaian seafood could impact UK importers significantly, since the reported annual value of tuna imports from Ghana is in the region of £27 Million.

It is not yet known whether a possible ban would affect Ghanaian fisheries exports to other countries. It has been recently reported that Ghana and Seychelles have entered an agreement to bolster each other’s tuna exports to the EU, as both countries’ tuna seasons peak at different times of the year. An EU market ban may endanger commercial arrangements such as this one, given the strict origin and re-export rules adopted by the EU with the implementation of Regulation 1005/2008 (the IUU Regulation) in January 2010.

Sources:

http://www.seychellesnewsagency.com/articles/532/Ghana+and+Seychelles+to+top-up+each+others+tuna+exports

http://www.undercurrentnews.com/2013/09/10/ghanaian-tuna-exporter-loses-5m-due-to-eu-trade-snags/

http://allafrica.com/stories/201406050752.html

http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/fmcg/fresh/tuna-imports-held-following-warnings-of-illegal-fishing/238499.article

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.