Combatting illegal fishing for a sustainable ocean

Officials of APEC economies are raising global public awareness and action on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, which undermine the region’s food security.

Chile, host economy for 2019, has declared improving the health of oceans – which includes addressing marine debris as well as the fisheries sector – as one of its priorities, and member economies agree.

Multiple instruments, binding and non-binding, are available to rein in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, but execution of treaties can be improved and require supportive policy and legal implementing frameworks.

Better monitoring and tracing of fishing-related vessels, including refrigerated transport vessels, can also help rein in illegal activity.

APEC can help its economies prepare the tools to achieve these goals.

Why it matters

The fisheries industry is a global juggernaut, valued at US$144 billion annually.

Small-scale fishing accounts for 90 per cent of the sector, which feeds more than 50 per cent of the population of developing countries, including in the Asia-Pacific region.

Yet 20 per cent of fish captured globally is lost to illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, referred to as IUU.

Such fishing exacerbates food insecurity and poverty, robs families of income, and undermines attempts at sustainable fisheries, while also encouraging crime.

“Illegal fishing takes money out of the hands of those playing by the rules. It takes food out of people’s mouths. It undermines governments’ efforts to achieve sustainable fisheries,” said Patrick Moran, Lead Shepherd for APEC’s Oceans and Fisheries Working Group.

“APEC can harness its great power to help its economies. The greatest enemies of IUU are communication and collaboration, because the fish have to be sold.

“If there is illegal fishing somewhere in APEC, it can be communicated to everyone in the region so action can be taken.

“The idea is to deny market access. We can help develop the tools (for this) and help the economies implement those tools,” added Moran, who represents the Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection at NOAA Fisheries, the US Department of Commerce.

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