UN agency helping countries fight illegal fishing in Indian Ocean
Representatives from 13 Indian Ocean countries are meeting in Mauritius, under the auspices of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to focus on strengthening port security – a key tool for combating illegal fishing.
“We are now on the threshold of a new era in addressing [illegal] fishing through the key compliance tool of port State measures… widely regarded to be one of the most cost-effective means of combating [illegal] fishing,” Ichiro Nomura, Assistant Director-General of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, told participants.
Tighter port controls make it harder for illegal fishers to offload, refuel and take on supplies, and can include requiring boats to radio in prior to docking and in-port inspections.
Illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean takes on many forms, including fishing without permission or out of season, harvesting prohibited species, using outlawed fishing gear and disregarding catch quotas.
It is a particular concern in the western Indian Ocean and along the eastern coast of Africa, where fishing boats have taken advantage of the lack of strong enforcement measures in coastal countries.
The two-day workshop comes on the heels of an international symposium organized by the Indian Ocean Commission in partnership with FAO, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission, during which country representatives, intergovernmental organizations, industry and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) discussed new measures taken in recent years against illegal fishing in the region.
The stakes are high, particularly for the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, whose Executive Secretary, Alejandro Anganuzzi, warned that unless effective control measures are implemented soon, the sustainability of tuna fisheries in the region “might be compromised,” adding that port controls offer an attractive option, given their cost-effectiveness.
In March 2007, 131 countries attending a high-level FAO meeting agreed to start work on a legally binding global agreement establishing common port control measures.