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7. How are fisheries regulated?

  • 7.1 Marine fisheries: industrial
  • 7.2 How is the role of regional fishery bodies changing?
  • 7.3 Dealing with IUU fishing
  • 7.4 Other regulation and policy issues
  • 7.5 How is aquaculture development regulated?
  • 7.6 Trade and fisheries subsidies

7.1 Marine fisheries: industrial

The source document for this Digest states:

Long-Term productivity of fisheries needs to be
                                    ensured
Long-Term productivity of fisheries needs to be ensured
Source & ©: Jan Willem Geertsma

The world’s oceans support economic activities on a vast scale, and the need to rehabilitate and protect their common wealth and productivity has led the international community to focus intensely on how oceans are used and governed. A critical component of that equation is sound fisheries governance, especially in terms of achieving long-term sustainable management of living marine resources, a precondition for maintaining their social and economic value (Box 5). Intrinsically linked to this goal is the need to ensure greater responsibility and accountability by all individuals and private companies involved in the harvesting, processing and marketing of fish. More broadly, and also taking account of the potential for endemic corruption in resource-based industries 24, sustainable management outcomes (including poverty reduction and alleviation, improved food security, stronger economic development and growth, and greater access to public services) depend to a large extent on concurrent improvements in public governance.

Fisheries management poses challenges for all countries, especially those that are capacity poor. In some countries, improvements in resource management are proceeding hand-in-hand with public sector reform and measures to promote better governance. These outcomes are increasingly being incentive-linked to the provision of development assistance. However, despite positive developments, there has been only limited progress in the implementation of management measures in most of the world.

In this respect, a key fisheries management issue is the lack of progress in reducing fishing capacity25 and related harmful subsidies, a fundamental consideration if the state of world fisheries is to be improved. The 2007 session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (the Committee) referred to the lack of progress in this area, and to the need to match fishing capacity with sustainable harvesting levels. In a similar vein, in 2007, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 62/177 deplored the fact that fish stocks in many parts of the world are overfished or subject to sparsely regulated and heavy fishing efforts. The relationship between excess capacity and IUU fishing was also highlighted by both the Committee and the UN General Assembly. These issues and the nexus between them need to be addressed in tandem. They are also being deliberated on in other regional and global fora. 26

There has been only limited progress in the implementation of measures inter alia to mainstream precautionary and ecosystem approaches to fisheries, eliminate bycatches and discards, regulate bottom-trawl fisheries (Box 6), manage shark fisheries and deal with IUU fishing in a comprehensive manner. Each of these issues has social, economic and political dimensions, and the implementation of measures to tackle them effectively requires adequately trained human resources, well-structured and resilient institutions, and financial support.

A sharp focus on capacity building for fisheries management is a priority for both developing and developed countries. In a globalizing fisheries world, there is increasing interdependence between developing and developed states. 27 With respect to the implementation of international fisheries instruments (e.g. the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement), it is recognized that there is an element of self-interest in the provision of development assistance. This is because the instruments face a reasonable probability of floundering if they are not embraced widely by countries and if there is not a degree of implementation equivalency among parties to agreements. Principally for these reasons, most of the instruments concluded since the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development contain capacity-building provisions. 28

A further and important reason to promote capacity building exists where regional cooperation and collaboration underpin the implementation of agreements. In these cases, capacity-poor countries become the weak links in the implementation process. For example, the adoption of harmonized and minimum standards for monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) and regional port state measures envisages that they be implemented by countries in unison and with a similar degree of vigour. A failure to achieve coordinated implementation creates implementation loopholes, thereby undermining regional cooperation and outcomes.

Box 5: The potential economic benefits from effective management of global marine fisheries

The “Rent Drain” study, a joint project of the World Bank PROFISH Global Program on Fisheries and FAO, describes the economic status of the global marine fisheries. The study shows that the difference between the potential and actual net economic benefits from marine fisheries is in the order of US$50 billion per year. The cumulative economic loss to the global economy over the last three decades is estimated to be in the order of US$2 trillion. In many countries, the catching operations are buoyed up by subsidies, so that the global fishery economy to the point of landing (the harvest subsector) was in deficit in the study’s base year (2004). Improved governance of marine fisheries could capture a substantial part of this US$50 billion annual economic loss.

The study argues that the focus on the declining biological health of the world’s fisheries has tended to obscure the even more critical economic health of the fisheries. Economically, healthy fisheries are fundamental to achieving not only the restoration of fish stocks but other accepted objectives for the fisheries sector, such as improved livelihoods, exports, fish food security and economic growth.

The “Rent Drain” study, builds on previous estimates of the global rents loss, in particular studies by FAO1 and by Garcia and Newton. 2 Many of the problems characterized in the Garcia and Newton study still remain prevalent in global fisheries a decade later. More fish stocks are overexploited, overcapacity in fishing fleets remains problematic, income levels of fishers remain depressed and fish prices have stabilized or even fallen while the costs of harvesting fish have increased. Labour and fleet productivity has declined even as fishing technology has advanced.

Global marine capture fisheries production is relatively stagnant, producing 85 million tonnes in 2004, about the same quantity as in 1992. Analysis of trends in the value and costs of production show that marine capture fisheries are loss-making at the global level. For example, available global data suggest stable or even declining real per unit export values since the mid-1990s. Increased fuel costs, growing numbers of vessels and declining catch rates have reduced the economic efficiency of global marine capture fisheries. Subsidies for fuel and investment in fishing capacity have contributed even further to the decline in catch-per-fisher and catch-per-vessel ratios.

The study considered the global marine fishery as a single bioeconomic unit. Available global datasets were used to generate parameters for the classical Schaefer and Fox biological models and to make estimates of the difference between the current (2004) and potential economic rent in the global fishery using each model. The estimate of US$50 billion is a mean from the two models. The estimate has a 95-percent confidence interval of between US$26 billion and US$72 billion. The rent loss estimate may increase by US$10–20 billion per year if discards are assumed to have an economic value and if allowance is made for the recent increases in fuel and food prices. A series of developing country case studies also lend weight to the rent loss estimates.

The estimate refers only to the harvest sector, that is, the global fisheries economy to the point of landing. However, a more economically efficient harvest sector can generate substantial additional downstream benefits. The estimate also excludes consideration of the value of biodiversity losses and losses by recreational fisheries and marine tourism.

The real cumulative global resource rent loss from inefficient marine capture fisheries in the period from 1974 to 2007 was estimated at US$2.2 trillion. The rent loss of US$50 billion in 2004 was used as a base value to construct a time series of losses. The 1974–2007 period was used because FAO produced its first “state of the marine fisheries” report in 1974, the first of a series of 14 such reports. The changing proportion of global fish stocks reported as fully exploited or overexploited in this series was used to build the annual loss estimates.

Capturing resource rent could generate economic growth both in the marine economy and other sectors, finance fisheries management systems, and help ensure an economically efficient and socially and environmentally sustainable use of the resources.

1 FAO. 1993. Marine fisheries and the law of the sea: a decade of change. Special chapter (revised) of The State of Food and Agriculture 1992. Rome.

2 S.M. Garcia and C. Newton. 1997. Current situation, trends and prospects in world capture fisheries. In E.L. Pickitch, D.D. Huppert and M.P. Sissenwine, eds. Global trends: fisheries management, pp. 3–27. American Fisheries Society Symposium 20. Bethesda, United States of America.

Source: World Bank. 2008. The sunken billions. The economic justification for fisheries reform. Washington, DC.

Box 6: The need for additional indicators of fishing capacity

There is growing concern over the impacts that fishing gear may have on environments including: (i) the amount of fuel/energy consumed to capture the target species; (ii) the physical damage to the marine environment; (iii) the capacity of lost or abandoned fishing gear to “ghost fish”; (iv) the quantity and number of bycatch species; and (v) the quantity of fish and other animals discarded when using a particular fishing gear. These concerns have been raised in relation to commercial fishing gear including purse seines, bottom trawls, dredges, pots, hooks and lines, lift nets, gillnets and entangling nets.

While size and power of the fishing fleet may be useful indicators of trends in fishing capacity, vessel indices are unable to provide measures of the social, economic or environmental impacts attributed to a particular fishing method. First, the majority of small fishing vessels (which constitute 90 percent of global vessels by number) are multipurpose and use different types of gear depending on time, season and opportunity. Second, although some fleet data by vessel type are linked with fishing gear, the existing vessel statistics and information do not necessarily reflect the operational activities of the vessels. Third, the measurements used for vessel size and power often have no direct linear relationship with the impacts of fishing gear. This indicates the need to establish effective effort indices for fishing gear (for example, the days, number and types of gear used) in order to quantify the impacts of fishing gear on fisheries and monitor their trends.

This type of indicator will be useful in quantifying the impacts associated with each type of fishing gear type, and in identifying problems that need to be mitigated or resolved. For example, it has been claimed that bottom trawling is associated with high fuel consumption, physical damage to marine habitat, and high bycatch and discards. At the same time, a crude estimate indicates that 23 percent of global capture production, about 20 million tonnes, is obtained from bottom trawling. When considering a shift from bottom trawling to an alternative capture method, a fishing-gear/ effort indicator, if analysed together with capture production data and socio- economic data (such as fuel consumption by vessel type and employment), would enable: (i) evaluation of the social, economic and environmental consequences of such a change; (ii) quantification of the extent to which environmental-impact-mitigation objectives can be or have been met; and (iii) monitoring of progress after the implementation of the new policy. Decisions on which types of fishing gear to promote or restrict should be based on a clear understanding of their relative benefits and disadvantages as well as the impacts and consequences of the measures.

24 In January 2008, the World Bank and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) convened the first global workshop on corruption in fisheries (Fisheries and Corruption – from bad to worse, Washington, DC, 30–31 January 2008). It addressed wide-ranging issues including: types of corruption in fisheries; corruption and allocation of resources; corruption along the value chain; transboundary corruption and collusion; and the limits of responsible fish politics. The meeting also considered governance and anti-corruption strategies and how to clean up corrupt practices. In comparison, governance and corruption issues in the timber sector are fairly well studied and documented.
25 Very few countries have developed national plans of action (NPOAs) to manage fishing capacity, as called for in the 1999 FAO International Plan of Action for the Management of Fishing Capacity. Largely reflecting the political consequences of fleet reduction programmes, it is probably the least implemented of the four international plans of action. Information available to FAO indicates that about ten NPOAs–Capacity have been elaborated. There is little information on the extent to which these NPOAs are being implemented.
26 The 2007 Regional Consultative Workshop on Managing Fishing Capacity and IUU Fishing in the Asian Region adopted a call to action in which it was agreed that fleet overcapacity and IUU fishing threaten economic development and food security, and that the proactive tackling of capacity and IUU fishing delivers concrete benefits throughout the fisheries sector and economy generally. See FAO. 2007. Managing fishing capacity and IUU fishing in the Asian region. AFPIC Regional Consultative Workshop. RAP publication 2007/18. Bangkok.
27 The European Union (EU) recognizes this situation in its new policy and legal framework to combat IUU fishing. In a press release on 17 October 2007, the EU pointed out that “cooperation with our partners remains vital in any attempt to defeat international crime. For that reason, in addition to the new measures we are putting in place within the EU, intensified cooperation with our international partners will be key to our success, as will support to developing countries to protect their own resources against yet further plunder”. The press release went on to say that “fighting illegal fishing effectively can have a tremendously positive effect for many developing countries, their economies and their natural resources. Under both its Common Fisheries Policy and its development cooperation, the EU will therefore prepare a series of accompanying measures in the coming two years to help developing countries to fight IUU operations more effectively”.
28 Capacity building should be an ongoing activity because of the continual loss of trained human resources. In some countries, including small island developing states, the “brain drain” from the public sector to the private sector and abroad is often acute, necessitating that capacity building be continued almost on a regular basis.

Source & ©: FAO FisheriesThe State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2008 
PART 1:World review of fisheries and aquaculture, Governance and Policy, p. 65-69

7.2 How is the role of regional fishery bodies changing?

The source document for this Digest states:

Regional fisheries management organizations

Regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs), the cornerstones of international fisheries governance, are struggling to fulfil their mandates despite concerted efforts to improve their performance. This situation results partly from the frameworks within which they operate and from an apparent lack of political will by members to implement decisions in a timely manner. Moreover, the effectiveness of RFMOs is impaired by: the use of consensus decision-making; placing national interests ahead of good fisheries governance; an unwillingness of members to fund research in support of management; time-lagged implementation of management decisions; a focus on crisis management rather than everyday fisheries management; and the lack of a real connection between day-to-day fisheries management requirements and an annual meeting based on diplomatic practice. However, there is a growing consensus that these fundamental issues require resolution if RFMOs are to be reinvigorated and become truly effective vehicles for sustainable fisheries management.

In an effort to improve their effectiveness, many RFMOs are implementing performance reviews. Most have opted for a mixed-panel approach, where there is a combination of internal and external professionals. Such an approach has many advantages, combining an intimate knowledge of the organization’s operations and challenges with independent expert knowledge and input. A highly successful review, undertaken in collaboration with FAO, of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) was concluded in 2006. This initial review paved the way for reviews of other RFMOs. Nonetheless, the international community recognizes that there are many differences among RFMOs, and it is essential that a flexible approach be adopted so that differences can be accommodated fully.

The RFMOs slated for performance reviews in 2008 include the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). 29 The review of RFMOs responsible for the management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks established before the conclusion of the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (the Agreement) is especially important. This is to ensure that the Agreement’s thrust and intent can be reflected in the revised mandates of these organizations. In 2007, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization completed an extensive review and amendment process in order to update its convention to bring it into line with the Agreement.

Despite pessimism in the international community about the lack of effectiveness of RFMOs and their inability or reluctance to take practical management decisions, steps have been taken, or are being taken, to establish new RFMOs where none existed previously. Once these have been established, nearly all of the world’s major fish stocks will be covered by RFMOs, the major exception being straddling stocks in the Southwest Atlantic Ocean.

In 2006, following an initiative of the Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation among African States bordering the Atlantic Ocean,30 FAO cooperated to establish the Fishery Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea. This organization complements two existing subregional organizations in adjacent areas (the Subregional Fisheries Commission and the Regional Fisheries Committee for the Gulf of Guinea). Each organization has fisheries management functions. Their goals are to support member countries in gathering information and developing plans as a means of contributing to improved fisheries management in West Africa.

Further initiatives to enhance fisheries governance are the negotiations in the Pacific Ocean to establish the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organization (SPRFMO) and the Inter-governmental Meeting on Management of High Seas Bottom Fisheries in the North Western Pacific Ocean. Negotiations for both initiatives are based on principles of international law, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement. The SPRFMO involves a large number of countries. Its goal is to establish an organization in which the precautionary and ecosystem approaches to fisheries management are applied in order to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of fishery resources. The management focus is on non-tuna species, including discrete high seas stocks. The negotiations have been in train since 2006 and are expected to conclude in 2009. Consultations to establish the mechanism for the North Western Pacific Ocean commenced in 2006. The process involves four countries.31 The nature and scope of the agreement for the proposed mechanism and the implementation of interim measures are under active discussion.

A major challenge for the international community is to bring agreements into force once negotiations have been concluded. In July 2006, the multilateral agreement to establish the South Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA) was signed by six countries (Comoros, France, Kenya, Mozambique, New Zealand and Seychelles) and the European Community. Its purpose is to manage high seas fishing in the South Indian Ocean in order to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable use of non-tuna resources. However, the SIOFA has not yet entered into force and it may not do so in the near future – there have been no ratifications, and no interim management measures for the target stocks have been agreed.

International cooperation is strengthened and many problems resolved through consultation and the timely exchange of information. For RFMOs, such exchanges are crucial in dealing with common issues such as IUU fishing and the harmonization of data formats. FAO and non-FAO RFBs have met biennially since 1999 to consider matters of common concern and to learn how different bodies handle and resolve similar problems. These meetings marked a watershed in cooperation among RFBs. In 2007, the nature and scope of cooperation was taken a step further with the First Meeting of Regional Fishery Body Secretariats Network. This meeting inter alia reviewed: decisions by the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) of relevance to RFBs (including their role); external factors affecting fisheries management; approaches to incorporate ecosystem considerations into RFB fisheries management programmes; the status of the Fisheries Resources Monitoring System (FIRMS); 32 and other relevant matters.

Independently of this FAO-led process for RFBs, the world’s five tuna RFMOs have commenced an annual consultative process. They held their first meeting in Japan (Kobe, 26 January 2007) and their second meeting in the United States of America (San Francisco, 5–6 February 2008). Unlike the RFB grouping, all the tuna organizations have management functions, comparable management goals and similar challenges. In addition, most of the organizations have members in common, and often shared fleets. In at least one case, two RFMOs have overlapping mandates. Therefore, it is appropriate that they collaborate and seek to promote interregional harmonization on common issues including harmonized stock assessment, MCS, vessels monitoring systems (VMSs), vessel lists, trade and catch tracking systems, and transhipment controls. At the 2008 meeting, it was noted that all tuna organizations had taken action to improve data sharing and strengthen MCS measures, primarily to deter IUU fishing.

At recent international fora, concern has been expressed that some RFMOs are failing to adopt management measures even where these are based on the best scientific advice available.33 This failure is bringing the role and work of RFMOs into disrepute and jeopardizing their credibility. The 2008 report of the tuna RFMO meeting also referred to this issue. It noted that significant concern was shared among the RFMOs on the slow progress by some organizations in addressing matters such as the establishment of equitable and transparent allocation procedures, capacity control and management based on scientific advice. In fact, substantial concern was voiced regarding the consequences of RFMOs not adopting management measures consistent with the best available scientific advice. On this matter, there was criticism by Pacific Island parties and civil society in December 2007 concerning the failure of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to reach management decisions on bigeye and yellowfin stocks. 34 This situation has led to a souring of relations between Pacific Island countries and the distant-water fishing nations that are members of the WCPFC.

While RFMOs are the primary vehicles for promoting international cooperation for fisheries management, other organizations and mechanisms are also focusing increasingly on issues relating to fisheries and their long-term sustainability, the ecosystem, the environment and climate change, often in an integrated manner. The international community is encouraging broadening cooperation with these organizations and mechanisms, which include the White Water to Blue Water Partnership Initiative, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the MERCOSUR and the Regional Ministerial Meeting on Promoting Responsible Fishing Practices, including Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing in the Region (Bali, Indonesia, 2007).

29 The purpose of the performance reviews is to identify the strengths, weaknesses and performance gaps. Their recommendations provide guidance inter alia on remedial measures to enhance RFMO performance. Actions to implement the recommendations, which depend on the will and agreement of members, have the potential to be controversial and difficult.
30 The Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation among African States bordering the Atlantic Ocean was created under the 1991 Dakar Convention to promote cooperation concerning fisheries management and development in West Africa. It has played an important role in several regional meetings concerning different fisheries issues including regional monitoring, control and surveillance cooperation. The jurisdiction of the Conference extends from Morocco to Namibia, and as such is the only organization covering the whole West Africa region, although it is only open to coastal states.
31 The four countries involved are Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the United States of America.
32 The Fisheries Resources Monitoring System (FIRMS) aims to assemble systematically comprehensive and reliable information on fisheries and fishery resources at the national, regional and global levels. An FAO initiative, FIRMS operates in partnership with RFBs.
33 These international fora have included the seventh round of Informal Consultations of the States Parties to the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UN Headquarters, New York, United States of America, 11–12 March 2008).
34 The Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) area accounts for more than 50 percent of world tuna catches. The management measures that were rejected sought to reduce: (i) the impact of purse seining on juvenile bigeye and yellowfin; and (ii) longline catches of adult bigeye.

Source & ©: FAO FisheriesThe State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2008 
PART 1:World review of fisheries and aquaculture, Governance and Policy, p. 69-71

7.3 Dealing with IUU fishing

The source document for this Digest states:

The need to combat IUU fishing and related activities, now generally considered an environmental crime involving theft of resources, 36 is high on the international fisheries agenda. This is because IUU fishing constitutes a serious threat to: (i) fisheries, especially those of high-value that are already overfished (e.g. cod, tuna, redfish and swordfish); (ii) marine habitats, including vulnerable marine ecosystems; and (iii) food security and the economies of developing countries. The incidence of IUU fishing is also increasing in many areas, (37) undermining national and regional efforts to manage fisheries sustainably. There is international consensus that efforts to combat IUU fishing should focus on blocking fish from entering international trade, thereby depriving IUU fishers of financial reward. Hence, an increased burden is falling on the shoulders of port and market states, including both developed and developing states, to prevent the movement and laundering of IUU-caught fish through their ports and into their markets.

Countries acting as flag or port of non-compliance encourage IUU fishing, as they provide the flags for vessels to operate with few or no restrictions and the havens in which to base operations and to handle catches. A major initiative under way relates to the negotiation of a binding international instrument on port state measures (Box 7). It is being complemented by an innovative approach to flag state responsibility as the international community moves to develop criteria to assess flag state performance and to consider possible action against vessels flying the flags of states that fail to meet these criteria. 38 This approach changes the emphasis somewhat. While fishing vessels continue to be targeted, flag states will now be confronted directly, instead of indirectly as was generally past practice. This development should enable the international community to take more concrete action against irresponsible flag states.

The 2001 FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing calls on market states to implement internationally-agreed market measures, consistent with WTO rules, to prevent the trade in IUU-caught fish. 39 Furthermore, several RFMOs have adopted catch and trade traceability schemes to ensure that only documented and legally-harvested product is offered for sale in member countries. The CCAMLR, CCSBT and Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), for example, operate such schemes. The combination of national measures to block the importation of IUU-caught fish, RFMO traceability schemes, the implementation of flag state certification of catch schemes (e.g. such as those being implemented by the NEAFC and, shortly, by the EU) and enhanced port state measures should reinforce one another and reduce the opportunities for IUU products to enter international trade.

Underpinning efforts to address flag and vessel issues is FAO’s work to consider the development of a comprehensive global record for fishing vessels, refrigerated transport vessels and supply vessels. It is seeking to develop a harmonized global list of fishing vessels, incorporating information from RFMO lists, national vessel registers and other sources that contain information on authorized vessels. An Expert Consultation on the Development of a Comprehensive Global Record of Fishing Vessels (FAO headquarters, Rome, 25–28 February 2008) addressed general concepts and policy considerations. It expressed the view that the global record would be an essential tool to ensure the effectiveness of port state measures. The Consultation also proposed a schedule of follow-up activities to be undertaken before COFI in 2009, where the matter will be considered further.

IUU fishing has severe impacts on developing countries. They are affected by IUU fishing, and often rampant IUU fishing (e.g. in West Africa), in their EEZs. In turn, because of a lack of capacity, they are handicapped in dealing with it. Furthermore, with the rise of catch and trade traceability schemes, many developing countries, at least initially, are likely to face the loss of market opportunities because of their inability to handle the technicalities associated with such schemes. This is a major concern for the international community and seen as an important reason for ensuring that capacity building to combat IUU fishing receives high priority in developing countries.

Given the serious harm caused by IUU fishing and the need to find more effective means of preventing the practice as soon as possible, a number of new ideas are being considered. An emerging proposal is whether RFMOs, in keeping with the philosophy of using financial incentives to influence IUU fishing, should levy charges on states issuing flags of non-compliance and whose vessels fish in a RFMO area. (40) The proponents of this approach argue that this compensation would be justified on the grounds that the members of these organizations incur higher participation fees because of IUU fishing (e.g. higher MCS costs that are paid for from members’ contributions). In addition, as a result of IUU fishing, members are likely to have reduced fishing opportunities, with lower catches translating into lower incomes and profits.

In October 2007, the EU unveiled a new and forward-looking policy and legal framework on IUU fishing. It was introduced because the current EU framework could not guarantee that fisheries products imported from non-EU countries had been caught legally. The new framework hinges on reducing profit for IUU fishers and their collaborators. Two of its central tenets are to: (i) require flag states to certify that all imported fish has been harvested in a legal manner; 41 and (ii) impose sanctions on flag states that do not meet their international obligations. In addition, strict sanctions against EU nationals who engage in IUU fishing will be imposed, irrespective of whether they operate in the EU or abroad.

Box 7: Towards a legally binding agreement/instrument on port state measures

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing undermines national and regional efforts to manage fisheries sustainably and inhibits progress towards improving ocean governance. The international community recognizes that it must be addressed in a comprehensive and multipronged manner, as evidenced by the approach taken to develop the 2001 FAO International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IPOA-IUU).

While not losing sight of the importance of the IPOA-IUU “toolbox” as a whole, international attention is focusing more intensely on the role of the port state in preventing IUU-caught fish entering international trade. If IUU fishers are unable to tranship or land IUU-caught product, or if the transaction costs associated with trying to launder it for sale through legitimate market channels are sufficiently high, the financial incentive to engage in IUU fishing will decline. This situation should, in turn, have a positive impact on the state of resources that have been targeted by IUU fishers.

The FAO Committee on Fisheries (the Committee) addressed the use of port state measures specifically to combat IUU fishing in 2005 and 2007. Initially, the Committee agreed that a lack of binding port state measures provided a loophole for IUU fishers. It endorsed the 2005 FAO Model Scheme on Port State Measures to Combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (the Model Scheme) and encouraged countries to implement it. In 2007, the Committee further agreed that there was an urgent need to develop a new legally-binding instrument based on the IPOA-IUU and the Model Scheme.

Working to a tight timetable, in September 2007, FAO convened an Expert Consultation to Draft a Legally-binding Instrument on Port State Measures in Washington, DC, to elaborate an initial draft text for a legally- binding instrument. This meeting was followed in June 2008 by a technical consultation to negotiate a text for a binding international instrument. It will be forwarded to the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in 2009 for review and consideration.

It is now clear that IUU fishing is fuelled and supported by IUU fishers transhipping, landing and laundering their illicit catches. By all accounts, IUU fishing continues to be a profitable activity. Profitability will not diminish until it becomes more difficult for IUU fishers to sell their catches.

Central to reducing the profitability of IUU fishing is the need to make the movement of IUU-caught product from the vessel to shore and on to the consumer’s plate more onerous. Port states have a front-line role in ensuring that only legally harvested fish is landed and that opportunities and loopholes for laundering illegal catch are closed. States must ensure that effective port state controls are exercised, and that they do not permit IUU fishing vessels to use their ports for any purpose or for IUU-caught fish to be transhipped or landed. This situation could have an adverse impact on trade volumes in the short to medium terms. However, if unsustainable IUU fishing practices on stocks are not eradicated, fish supply levels may well decrease, leading to a decline in fish available for national consumption and international trade.

35 The initiative relating to the Regional Ministerial Meeting on Promoting Responsible Fishing Practices, including Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing in the Region involves Southeast Asian countries as well as Australia, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. It is an interesting type of cooperation in that the initiative spans Asia and the Pacific regions.
36 See for example note 26. See also the UK Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). 2008. The growth and control of international environmental crime – summary report. London.
37 For example, in the Pacific Islands, IUU fishing is increasing as tuna stocks in other parts of the world decline. This fishing is undertaken by vessels of both members and non-members of the WCPFC. It is estimated that IUU catches in the WCPFC area could be as high as 10 percent of reported catches, or 200 000 tonnes in total. (Information summarized from an interview with the Executive Director, WCPFC, in Islands Business, December 2007).
38 The outcome of an initial March 2008 consultation on flag state responsibility led by the Governments of Canada and Iceland is expected to provide input for an FAO expert consultation prior to COFI in 2009.
39 There is a high degree of international acceptance that countries are at liberty to restrict or ban the import of IUU-caught fish because it is seen as equivalent to a stolen product. Restricting imports of such fish is not an impediment to international trade, and such action would be deemed consistent with WTO rules.
40 M. Gianni. 2004. IUU fishing and the cost to flag of convenience countries. Paper presented at Workshop on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Activities, 19–20 April 2004. Paris, OECD.
41 The requirement for flag states to certify that all imported fish has been harvested in a legal manner took effect on 1 May 2007. It is now being imposed by all NEAFC members for frozen fish imports.

Source & ©: FAO FisheriesThe State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2008 
PART 1:World review of fisheries and aquaculture, Governance and Policy, p. 71-73

7.4 Other regulation and policy issues

The source document for this Digest states:

High seas fisheries

In line with international calls to address high seas fisheries governance and take account of the outcome of Deep Sea 2003 (an international conference on deep-sea fisheries held in Wellington, 27–29 November 2003), FAO embarked on work in 2006 to consider options for the management of deep-sea fisheries in the high seas. An initial expert consultation (Bangkok, 21–23 November 2006) addressed key issues about these fisheries and proposed steps to: (i) enhance information exchange 42 in order to increase knowledge about these fisheries; and (ii) convene an FAO technical consultation to consider their management and to prepare guidelines and/or a code of conduct for management of these fisheries. In 2007, COFI considered the need for follow-up work and agreed that FAO should proceed with the elaboration of international guidelines (before 31 December 2008). A second expert consultation in 2007 (Bangkok, 11–14 September 2007) drafted guidelines that then formed the basis of negotiations at an FAO technical consultation (FAO headquarters, Rome, 4–8 February 2008). It was not possible to complete the work at that meeting, and the consultation was reconvened at FAO headquarters in August 2008. It is anticipated that international guidelines endorsed by the consultation will be submitted to COFI in 2009 for consideration and approval.

Highly migratory species and straddling stocks

To promote participation in, and the implementation of, the 1995 United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement (the Agreement), and as a means of strengthening its position in customary international law, it is anticipated that the sixty-third session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 will agree to resume the Review Conference that was suspended in 2006. With a growing number of parties to the Agreement (68 parties in total as at March 2008), there is a consensus by both parties and non-parties that more intense dialogue is required to eliminate obstacles that are currently preventing non- parties from ratifying the Agreement. This development, which surfaced strongly at the seventh round of Informal Consultations of the States Parties to the Agreement (New York, United States of America, 11–12 March 2008), is seen as a highly positive one, reflecting good will by all participants to deepen implementation through increasing participation. A highly encouraging parallel development is the extent to which some non-parties are also taking steps to implement key aspects of the Agreement. Significantly, the 2008 seventh round of Informal Consultations of the States Parties to the Agreement identified a lack of capacity in developing countries as a barrier to its wider acceptance and implementation.

Bycatch and discards

In their various forms, bycatches can have significant consequences for populations, food webs and ecosystems. In recent decades, a broad-based public consensus has developed around the view that bycatch should be minimized to levels approaching insignificance (Box 8). This view, as reflected in worldwide legislation and agreements, demonstrates the widely-held belief that discarded portions of fishery catches represent an unacceptable waste of natural resources. Although no detailed estimate of bycatch is available, a crude estimate suggests that it could be more than 20 million tonnes globally (equivalent to 23 percent of marine landings) and growing. Decreases in abundance of traditional species, falling catch revenues, new markets for non-traditional species, increased demand for raw material for animal feeds and changes in regulations to prohibit discarding are all factors that may contribute to increased landings of non-target species.

However, global awareness of the bycatch problem has produced results. Turtle mortalities have been reduced through: (i) wider use of turtle excluder devices in shrimp trawl fisheries (these devices are a prerequisite for shrimp exports to the United States of America; and (ii) the promotion and use of circle hooks in pelagic longline fisheries. Although economically and ecologically important, less-charismatic bycatch species (including juveniles) have yet to be treated with the same intensity. In many fisheries, they remain a source of unregulated and unreported fishing mortality.

Global awareness on bycatch has also benefited seabirds. The IPOA and NPOA for seabirds (IPOA/NPOA-S) have stimulated improvements in seabird-avoidance techniques in commercial longline fisheries. However, while unreported and unobserved bycatch is a component of IUU fishing, the IPOA on IUU has tended to focus on illegal fishing. It may be that progress in managing bycatch species and reducing discards would be best served through a separate and focused international initiative.

As globally there are few management regimes that regulate and report on retained or discarded bycatch species, there is no way of knowing the true magnitude of the problem. Making all retained species a component of specific fisheries management arrangements remains a priority for those pursuing an ecosystem approach to fisheries. The lack of comprehensive monitoring programmes to assess bycatches and integrate them into population and multispecies models seriously impedes a full understanding of bycatch consequences and the efficacy of measures for their amelioration.

Box 8: Replacing the bycatch concept in fisheries management?

In the last four decades, concern has been expressed by fishery managers and conservation/environmental groups that bycatch and discards may be contributing to biological overfishing and to altering the structure of marine ecosystems. In the last two decades, the search for solutions to the bycatch and discard problems has intensified, and bycatch has been reduced in several fisheries. However, in this period, the concept of what the term “bycatch” means to those both within and outside the fisheries sector has changed, and at this time there is no commonly accepted definition of the term.

Fisheries bycatch and discards

Already, in 1992, Murawski noted: “the use of the term bycatch adds considerable confusion to a topic that is already complex to both scientists and managers.“1 The term is relatively imprecise in that it constitutes a value judgment and may be inaccurate when used over any extended time to describe an element within a multi-species catch. In essence, “yesterday’s bycatch may be today’s target species.

The various components of recent key bycatch definitions are shown in the accompanying table. The definition used by FAO (2005) is the narrowest, and will lead to a lower estimate of bycatch than the other three, as it includes neither “retained non-target species” (referred to as incidental catch in FAO (1994) nor “unobserved mortalities”. Therefore, in order to be useful for decision-makers and in public debates, any estimate of bycatch should be accompanied by a statement of which definition of bycatch has been used.

However, apart from being imprecise, the concept of bycatch has another weakness. It is not quite adequate for the modern fisheries manager. Given the present trend to move from single species to multispecies management and application of the ecosystem approach to fisheries, managers must manage more than catch and bycatch. They are expected to manage fisheries so that landings are sustainable, discarded catch minimized and pre-catch losses (unobserved mortality) reduced.

Fishers will probably always think in terms of catch and bycatch, but for scientists and managers these concepts are now too crude. Fishing is probably easer to manage if thought of in terms of pre-catch losses, landings and discarded catch. The term “catches”, when used, then consists of landings and discarded catch.

1 S.A. Murawski. 1992. The challenges of finding solutions in multispecies fisheries. In R.W. Schoning, R.W. Jacobson, D.L. Alverson, T.G. Gentle and J. Auyong, eds. Proceedings of the National Industry Bycatch Workshop, February 4–6, 1992, Newport, Oregon, pp. 35–45. Seattle, United States of America, Natural Resources Consultants, Inc.

42With respect to the promotion of information and knowledge, the expert consultation recommended that FAO, in collaboration with RFMOs and other relevant mechanisms, should: undertake a global review of high seas deep-sea fisheries; review legal issues pertaining to the management of these fisheries; conduct research aimed at the reconstitution and analysis of historical high seas deep-sea fisheries data; identify and promote costeffective ways for research on fisheries and habitats; and address the issue of defining destructive fishing in the deep sea and provide further guidance on reducing such practices.

Source & ©: FAO FisheriesThe State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2008 
PART 1:World review of fisheries and aquaculture, Governance and Policy, p. 73-76

7.5 How is aquaculture development regulated?

The source document for this Digest states:

Until about two decades ago, apart from very few subsistence operations, aquaculture production was largely market-driven. More recently, many governments around the world have been playing a more proactive role in aquaculture development. This role has been changing gradually and varying in nature depending on the importance or potential of aquaculture in the socio-economic life of the various countries.

Even where aquaculture has been designated among the strategic sectors and industries, and endorsed by policy-makers as a source of livelihood and a contributor to economic growth, poverty reduction or balance of payments, its most recent expansion has still been driven by the profit incentive. However, this time, it has been accompanied by government involvement. In some cases, governments have intervened deliberately to provide fiscal and other incentives to entrepreneurs. Some countries in Africa are in the process of drafting aquaculture fiscal codes. Others have maintained an enabling economic environment in which entrepreneurs can compete but, having learned from earlier mistakes, they use good-governance tools to limit laissez faire excesses.

For entrepreneurs, good governance means providing law and order. In practice, it may mean: drafting a legislative framework; ensuring property rights; administering aquaculture regulations transparently; processing aquaculture licences rapidly and equitably; encouraging self-regulation through voluntary codes of practice; and promoting innovative, less-polluting production technologies. Many countries, both developed and developing, have enacted (or are in the process of drafting) national aquaculture legislations and regulations that govern the licensing, monitoring and control of aquaculture. These legal instruments ensure that any development of the industry is founded on sustainable ventures, is appropriately located, and is carried on in accordance with high standards of environmental and ecological protection. Most laws and regulations cover several aspects of the supply side of aquaculture, including planning and access, water and wastewater, seed, feed, aquaculture investment, and fish movement and disease control.

In terms of planning and access to productive resources, some countries have regulations regarding aquaculture zones. Under these regimes, aquaculture can only take place in designated zones, and any person wishing to engage in aquaculture must first apply for and obtain an aquaculture licence. In many instances, unlicensed operations can entail a fine, imprisonment or the destruction of the operation – or any combination of the three penalties. In some countries, there are also species-specific zones; only in particular zones can certain species be farmed. The challenge for many governments would be to license or register existing farms, in particular large numbers of small operations, which may not even qualify as an aquaculture operation. Although small in size, collectively they account for large areas of land that could continue to affect sustainability.

There are also laws and regulations on water access and use, and wastes. In most countries, the right to put up any structure in open water areas, such as fish traps and fish cages, or to dam flowing water for exclusive private use, requires a permit from the designated authority. However, such laws are often difficult to enforce because it is not always possible to monitor these activities. In many instances, local communities and/or farmers’ associations manage water resources and resolve conflicts. Multiple uses of water, such as integrated fish–rice farming, have also been encouraged as an efficient way of using scarce water and a means of minimizing conflicts. In developed countries and in many developing countries where aquaculture is important, the governing authority generally defines effluent guidelines or standards for aquaculture wastewater discharges. In most cases, these are based not on risks or impacts upon receiving waters but on the performance of the technologies used for the treatment and control of the wastes. In many cases, the standards have been adopted from other countries. Aquaculture operations that intend to discharge wastewater must obtain a permit before initiating a discharge. The permit specifies the conditions and effluent limitations under which the operation may make a discharge, and it establishes pollutant monitoring and reporting requirements.

Seed production and seed quality are gradually becoming a focus for policies and regulations. In order to increase seed supply, some governments provide incentives to farmers in the form of soft loans or tax exemptions in lieu of subsidized seed produced from government hatcheries (government hatcheries are progressively being phased out). These incentives can be oriented to particular species that are deemed to have potential commercial value. In order to improve seed quality from the private sector, in many places, seed producers must be certified, and seed quality standards, which are often species-specific, are formulated and published. National and local seed inspection and certification committees ensure that these standards are adhered to by certified producers. Moreover, many countries have legal provisions on the movement of fish (including broodstock and seed). In such countries, any introduction or import of eggs, fry, fingerlings or broodstock must be subjected to quarantine for evaluation and decision. There are also export regulations. The aim is to protect and maintain aquatic biosecurity and, in particular, to limit the spread of diseases within and beyond national boundaries. Some countries have established domestication and broodstock development and management programmes for some commercial species. This trend is continuing with significant success. However, because of the high costs of monitoring and enforcing the law, there are still many places in developing countries where aquatic animals move freely, without any inspection or certification.

Where aquaculture is developed, governments have generally focused on the quality of feed used, and set and controlled feed standards by regulation. Licences must be obtained for feed, additives and/or premixes produced domestically or imported. However, as with seed quality, monitoring can be constrained by a lack of financial resources or skilled personnel. In addition, the majority of fish feed in developing countries is still supplied by small, artisanal fish-feed units that usually do not adhere to any quality standards.

A further governance tool used by governments is that of promoting and supporting investments by small-scale farmers through economic incentives (including subsidized credit and collateral-free loans). A number of countries offer fiscal incentives, such as exemptions on, or reductions in, income tax, land taxes, sales taxes and import duties, to domestic and foreign investors. Some governments have also encouraged foreign investment but with limits on the extent of foreign participation. For the policy to be successful, they guarantee capital and profit repatriation. Where this has been applied, foreign participation has increased rapidly, especially in marine and brackish-water aquaculture.

Self-policing is becoming increasingly common. Farmers, particularly those with long-time horizons, are increasingly building on the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF) to elaborate, support and enforce self-regulating management codes. Most have realized that it is in their best interests to minimize pollution because the latter directly affects their operations. However, there are arguments that self-regulation and environmental safeguards through voluntary codes of practice are ineffective forms of governance in the absence of binding legal obligations to enforce rules. Nevertheless, there are success stories on efficient self- regulation through cluster management. There is also evidence that, by empowering small-scale farmers, compliance with voluntary codes has improved the environmental sustainability of their operations, so enabling them to gain better access to international markets and to improve their competitiveness.

Having learned from past mistakes, many countries, early movers as well as newcomers in aquaculture, now emphasize environmental sustainability and social responsibility. In addition to laws and regulations, and voluntary codes of practice that aim to ensure environmental integrity, some of the means of achieving this goal include innovative, less-polluting production techniques, such as those based on the ecosystem approach to aquaculture (which emphasizes management for sustainability). In this regard, tools and indicators have been developed for the purpose of assessing and monitoring not only the impacts of aquaculture on the environment, but also the impacts of the environment on aquaculture and site selection.

In terms of improving social responsibility, governments are defining minimum wages, improved labour conditions, worker welfare systems, etc. – which are being embraced by many lobbyists. Certification systems for aquaculture practices and products are beginning to include standards for monitoring social responsibility and equity.

The international dimension of aquaculture governance is gradually gaining ground. For example, the EU has legislation on aquaculture and its value chain. It includes regulations on food additives, animal diseases, environment, labelling and packaging, marketing, research, sanitary and hygiene measures, structures and third countries. These regulations are directly applicable and binding in all EU Member States without the need for any national parallel legislation. There is also an extensive array of international agreements, standards and procedures already in place for various aspects of aquaculture and its value chain elsewhere. Compliance with some of these agreements, standards and procedures is mandatory, and recognized competent authorities are empowered to verify compliance with these requirements.

The lack of financial and skilled human capacity to establish, monitor and enforce regulations in developing countries could particularly threaten efforts to govern aquaculture properly, thereby limiting its development in many countries. Most countries also have limited financial resources with which to monitor and enforce regulations. There is no indication that this situation will improve soon, particularly in countries with large numbers of small-scale farmers. There are still opportunities for self-governance, by empowering small-farmers through clustering, but significant effort will be required to realize their full potential. Policies and regulations may be enacted but, unless there are sufficient government personnel with adequate skills and financial resources to monitor and enforce them, they will remain ineffective. The lack of resources for monitoring and enforcement may be as critical as the absence of legislation or regulations.

There are many instances where regulations are overly cumbersome. Overregulation stifles entrepreneurial initiative and motivation – the very ingredients necessary for successful aquaculture. To avoid overregulation, policy-makers use a number of options, including consultation with farmers and other stakeholders, and they conduct a mandatory review of the costs and benefits of regulations prior to enactment.

Not only can the number of regulations hinder aquaculture development, the time to process regulations can have a similar effect. An example is the obligation to acquire permits or licences, which is now common in developed and developing countries. Depending on the country, it can take from three months to several years to obtain new licences to farm. To expedite the response to licence requests, some countries impose time constraints on the processing of the applications. In such countries, a decision has to be given within the established time limit; otherwise, the applicant has de facto a permit.

Source & ©: FAO FisheriesThe State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2008 
PART 1:World review of fisheries and aquaculture, Governance and Policy, p. 76-79

7.6 Trade and fisheries subsidies

The source document for this Digest states:

New disciplines governing the use of subsidies in the fisheries sector are being negotiated in the WTO. This follows the WTO Ministerial Declaration mandating participants “to clarify and improve WTO disciplines on fisheries subsidies, taking into account the importance of this sector to developing countries” (paragraph 28, 20 November 2001). Much progress has been achieved since the negotiations were launched. In November 2007, the Chair of the group negotiating fisheries subsidies tabled a Chair’s draft text. The Chair’s draft proposes a broad ban on subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity. It also proposes general exceptions to the prohibitions for all WTO members and special and differential treatment (S&DT) for developing countries. However, the general exceptions and S&DTs are conditional on WTO members having in place a fishery management system designed to prevent overfishing. The Chair’s text proposes that WTO members who wish to grant a subsidy that would fall under the general exception or S&DT provisions must notify FAO of their management system. It is proposed that FAO then undertake a peer review of the management system prior to the granting of the subsidy. However, at this stage, it should be noted that the negotiations in the WTO are still under way. When the fisheries subsidies negotiations have been concluded, the agreed text will clarify FAO’s intended role and the nature of the peer review.

Following the accession of China and Viet Nam to the WTO in 2001 and 2007, respectively, all major fish producing, importing and exporting countries are members of the organization, with the exception of the Russian Federation. Countries whose accession is expected to be ratified in 2008 are Cape Verde and Ukraine. Parallel to the increase in WTO membership, a number of bilateral trade agreements with strong relevance to fish trade have entered into force. The full impact of such bilateral agreements and regional trade agreements, in addition to (or in substitution of) broader multilateral agreements, remains to be seen. One trade agreement of significant relevance for trade in fish and fishery products is being negotiated at the regional level between six African, Caribbean and Pacific regions and the EU. The intention was to arrive at regional Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and make them operational from January 2008. The deadline was important, as the waiver granted by the WTO to the preferences in the Cotonou Agreement expired at the end of 2007. However, by the deadline, only one region, the Caribbean, had concluded a full EPA with the EU.

Whereas the least developed countries (LDCs) from all regions continue to benefit from free market-access preferences to the EU market under the Everything But Arms initiative, this is not the case for non-LDCs. Therefore, many of these have entered into interim agreements with the EU. In total, 35 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries had entered into full or interim agreements by the end of 2007. Some of these agreements also include chapters on fisheries development and cooperation. Countries that are neither LDCs nor signatories to interim or full agreements can continue to export to the EU market under the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences. However, this will lead to higher import duties for their products from 2008 onwards.

Source & ©: FAO FisheriesThe State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture, 2008 
PART 1:World review of fisheries and aquaculture, Governance and Policy, p. 79-80


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