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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Major success in the fight against illegal fishing
Efforts to clamp down on illegal fishing for cod in the Barents Sea are paying off - with a 50% cut in illegal fishing since 2005.
According to Norwegian government figures, more than 100,000 tonnes of illegal cod, valued at 225 million ($US350 million), was caught in the Barents Sea in 2005. Last year, estimates put illegal landings at about 40,000 tonnes. By way of comparison, the annual legal catch is around 450,000 metric tonnes.
WWF and its many partners in marine conservation are celebrating this major reduction in illegal fishing in the Barents Sea. said James Leape, WWF Internationals Director General. This impressive achievement shows how concerted efforts by governments, industry, and NGOs can make a real difference in stopping criminal fishing activities.
The Barents Sea is home to the worlds last large cod stock and supplies more than half the Atlantic cod available on the global market. Illegal fishing for Barents Sea cod threatens the health of these culturally important fisheries that are vital to the livelihoods of Arctic coastal communities.
Illegal fishing is an added stress that can reduce the capacity of fish populations to adapt and survive, and it undermines efforts to build sustainable fisheries management regimes ' a pressing objective in the Arctic where temperatures are rising at twice the global average.
The recent drop in illegal fishing in the Barents Sea is the result of many years of fisheries management cooperation.
Norway and Russia have a long history of dialogue on marine resource management that started during the Cold War. In recent years, however, illegal fishing grew due to opportunities arising from globalization of the industry and overcapacity in the fishing fleet.
Taking action to fight illegal fishing
The Norwegian and Russian governments recognized the pressing need to fight illegal fishing and proposed that the Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) implement a port state control scheme.
A ban on transshipments vessels flying a flag of convenience - a system which provides a perfect cover for illegal fishing, several new bilateral port control agreements and voluntary initiatives undertaken by the seafood industry are additional measures taken in the Barents Sea that have helped cut illegal fishing activity.
There is a risk that the positive trends may not continue, as illegal fishing can take new shapes and illegal products can find new ways to the market, for example through landing points outside the jurisdiction of the NEAFC port state agreement.
However, the Barents Sea cod success shows that with sustained political will and resources the battle against illegal fishing can be won. By working together, individuals in industry, government and the NGO community have shown that its possible to significantly improve environmental and socioeconomic conditions.
The challenge now is to completely eliminate illegal fishing in the Barents Sea and to extend the better fisheries management practices from the Barents Sea to other fisheries.
WWF calls for a global port state agreement to address illegal fishing activities, added Leape. We also urge all EU countries to support the draft European Commission regulation to deal with illegal fishing, and appeal to processors, retailers and consumers to not support criminality in fishing.
Writing the next chapter of this success story will involve a united effort including governments, fisheries management organizations, the seafood industry and NGOs.
We are optimistic that the Barents success can be extended to other fisheries where illegal fishing is a serious threat to fish populations and ecosystems, Leape concluded.
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Issues/Flag state issues
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Eastern Europe and North Asia/Russian Federation
Ocean Areas/Barents Sea