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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
Tough times ahead for illegal fishers: High Seas Task Force announces global action
World Conservation Union will help establish global database on high seas fishing vessels and promote greater transparency in high seas fisheries activities.
global database to track down illegal fishing vessels and a new set of guidelines for regional fisheries management organizations to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and sustainably manage ocean resources are amongst the key proposals of the High Seas Task Force final report launched today.
The High Seas Task Force (HSTF) comprises fisheries ministers from six nations and three conservation organizations including the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The Task Force launched a report today to catalyze global action against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities (IUU fishing).
"The only ones to profit from IUU fishing are the owners of the fishing fleets who remain hidden behind veils of corporate secrecy. The new Global Information System on High Seas Fishing Vessels will help identify them and reduce the severe overexploitation of fish stocks"," said Achim Steiner, Director General of the World Conservation Union at the launch.
IUU fishing is now a planet-wide scourge that undermines sustainable fisheries, exacerbates damage to marine habitats and species, and threatens the livelihoods of responsible fishers and communities dependent on fishing. Over half of the global fish stocks are already fully exploited, and 25 percent are overexploited, depleted or recovering from depletion. This leaves little room for expansion and no margin for error, said Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head of the Unions Global Marine Programme.
The worldwide catch of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is worth up to US$ 9.5 billion
The worldwide value of IUU catches are worth up to US$ 9.5 billion, shows a High Seas Task Force study. IUU catches make up about 14 percent of the value of marine catch globally, based on figures available for 2001. Up to 30 percent of IUU fishing occurs beyond national jurisdiction, where there are fewer controls.
The HSTF report reveals the ploys used by IUU fishers and loopholes in current enforcement systems that enable them to escape detection and sanction. One of these loopholes, used by roughly 15 percent of large-scale fishing fleets globally, is registering under a flag of convenience a flag of a country that does not enforce international maritime law strictly.
The HSTF report identifies nine practical initiatives to close the net on these modern-day pirates. The HSTF partners will start implementing them immediately. These initiatives address the need to improve our knowledge of IUU fishing and its impacts on target fish stocks and other marine species and habitat; they call for a comprehensive and better managed network of regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs); and they will help national authorities and RFMOs to detect, apprehend and sanction those involved in IUU fishing.
The High Sea Task Force report is ideally timed to garner broad support. It comes on the heels of a major international gathering under United Nations auspices two weeks ago that identified IUU fishing and destructive fishing practices as the two most significant and immediate threats to ocean life beyond national jurisdiction.
In 75% of the high seas, deep sea fisheries are totally unregulated
For the World Conservation Union, unregulated fishing is a particular concern. In 75% of the high seas, deep sea fisheries, as well as most shark and squid fisheries, are totally unregulated no management organizations are in place to control these activities. Long-lived sharks and deep sea fishes are being caught at an unsustainable rate, and fragile corals reefs, seamounts and sponge beds are in peril from destructive fishing practices such as bottom trawling.
Populations of two deep sea fish - the onion eye and the round-nose grenadier caught in the northwest Atlantic have crashed by 93.3 percent and 99.6 percent over the past 26 years. Both now qualify for listing on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. So far, deep sea fisheries have proven extremely unsustainable: on average, they have peaked after five years and collapsed after 15 years.
On average, deep sea fisheries collapse after 15 years
Illegal long-line fishing and other types of unregulated fisheries take a severe toll on seabirds, sea turtles and other non-target species.; 300,000 sea birds are killed each year through illegal long-line fishing. The HSTF report therefore calls for a complete network of effectively operating RFMOs to tackle these problems.
The World Conservation Union cannot allow current high seas fishing to foreclose opportunities for sustainable and equitable use of ocean resources. Closing the net on IUU fishing is essential, and the Union will spotlight irresponsible operators so that they abandon their illicit activities, said Achim Steiner. Until RFMOs have met high standards of performance, the Union will continue to call for interim measures to protect vulnerable ecosystems and biodiversity.
For more information contact:
Carl Gustaf Lundin, Head, IUCN Global Marine Programme,
Mobile +41 79 477 1400
Click here for the IUCN website.
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Political processes/High Seas Task Force