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IMO Ministerial Conference - Safe fishing, Legal fishing


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Ministerial Conference on Fishing Vessel Safety and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, organized by IMO and the Government of Spain, Torremolinos, Málaga, Spain, 21-23 October 2019

 Conference purpose and aims

The Conference promoted ratification of the Cape Town Agreement, a key IMO treaty for safety of fishing vessels. The entry into force of the Cape Town Agreement will help deter the proliferation of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, by establishing international safety standards for fishing vessels.

The Conference was co-hosted by IMO and the Government of Spain, with the kind support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and The Pew Charitable Trusts. Download key information on the Torremolinos Conference

Photos of the Conference: photos

Photos of the signing of the Torremolinos Declaration: Photos. 

Presentations - see under Conference Programme below to download presentations.

Conference outcome

During the conference (21-23 October), nearly 50 States signed the Torremolinos Declaration, publicly indicating their determination to ratify the Agreement by the target date of 11 October 2022 (tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Agreement).

Read more here.

Torremolinos Declaration

As well as taking action to ensure entry into force, States signing the Torremolinos Declaration, pledged to promote the Agreement, recognizing that the ultimate effectiveness of the instrument depends upon the widespread support of States, in their capacities as flag States, port States and coastal States. They also denounced the proliferation of IUU fishing, recognizing that international safety standards for fishing vessels will provide port States with a mandatory instrument to carry out safety inspections of fishing vessels, thereby increasing control and transparency of fishing activities.

Forty-eight countries have so far signed the declaration: Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Belize, Central African Republic, Chile, China, Congo (Republic of), Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Croatia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Ecuador, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Guinea (Republic of), Guinea Bissau, Iceland, Indonesia, Ireland, Kiribati, Lebanon, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Republic of Korea, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Togo, Uganda, United Kingdom, Vanuatu. The Declaration is open for further signatures until 21 October 2020.

Conference resolutions and Torremolinos Statement

The Conference adopted two resolutions. (Download Resolutions)

Conference resolution 1 adopted the Torremolinos Statement on the Cape Town Agreement of 2012 and combating illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. The Statement highlights the importance of the Cape Town Agreement and the work on combating IUU fishing. It calls on States to ratify the Cape Town Agreement; urges States to take actions to prevent deter and eliminate IUU fishing; encourage States to ratify and promote the STCW-F Convention on training of fishing vessel personnel; calls upon FAO, ILO, IMO to continue to work together in the fishing sector; and requests IMO to continue to prove technical assistance to States who request it in order to accede to and implement the Cape Town Agreement.

The second resolution expresses appreciation to Spain for hosting the conference.

 Conference Programme

Conference programme 

Monday 21 October Opening session: Welcome from Mayor of Torremolinos / Opening address by IMO Secretary-General / Keynote Address by Spanish Minister of Development / Appointment of Conference President; Ministerial segment: Ministers Statements / Keynote address by UN Special Envoy for the Ocean Peter Thomson / Statements by Ministers / Closing remarks; Torremolinos Declaration signing ceremony.

Tuesday 22 October - Panels

  1. Setting the scene 
  2. Applying effective safety and environmental protection standards of the Polar Code to fishing vessels 
  3. How Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Threatens the Safety of Fishers 
  4. Improving safety, reducing risk, and protecting our Search and Rescue Services
  5. Effectiveness of international fishing vessel programmes and responsible fishing schemes to promote safety 
  6. Working Conditions and the Cape Town Agreement 

  • 17:40: Special event: Women in fisheries (see below) 

Wednesday 23 October

      7. Marine debris from fishing vessel 

      8. Road to ratification of the Cape Town Agreement

  • Adoption of the Conference resolutions 

  • Closing remarks

 Torremolinos Declaration signing ceremony

The Cook Islands and Sao Tome and Principe became the latest States to become Party to the Cape Town Agreement on fishing vessel safety. They deposited their instruments of accession during the Torremolinos Ministerial Conference on Fishing Vessel Safety and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing (21-23 October).

At the same time, they joined nearly 50 others signing the Torremolinos Declaration, a non-legally binding political instrument. By signing the Declaration, the 46 States publicly indicate their determination to ensure the Cape Town Agreement reaches entry into force criteria by the tenth anniversary of its adoption (11 October 2022).  

 Special event on women in fisheries

The World Maritime theme for 2019 is ""Empowering women in the maritime community". (Read more here.)

Women play a significant role in the fishing supply chain, processing, smoking, and ensuring fish reaches markets and tables. Yet their contribution is often overlooked. “Women play key roles in fisheries around the world. To ignore those roles is to see only half the picture,” said IMO’s Juvenal Shiundu, during a side event on Women in Fisheries at the Torremolinos Ministerial Conference on safety of fishing vessels in Torremolinos, Spain (21-23 October). “Available data does not capture the multidimensional nature of the work undertaken by women in fisheries and few policies are developed with women in mind,” Mr. Shiundu said. To address the lack of visibility of women in fisheries, IMO has undertaken an online raising-awareness initiative under the hashtag #WomenInFisheries including an online photowall.

Speakers at the event highlighted good examples of work being done to support women in fisheries, including organization into networks and associations to give them a stronger voice as well as training. 

The Hon Emma Metieh Glassco, Director General, National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority, Liberia, highlighted practical steps to increase visibility of women in fisheries, including organizing fishmongers’ associations and practical training on salting of fish and using improved smoking ovens (a project supported by Iceland). Ms. Cherie Morris, representative of the Women in Fisheries Network, Fiji, said the network was working to give women in fisheries a voice at community level. The network has also secured funding to collect data. The importance of, and the need for, data was echoed by several speakers, including Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President, World Maritime University (WMU).

“We need to produce data and research on fishing - on fishers and the role that they play and from there look at how we can lift them from poverty,” Dr. Doumbia-Henry said. Current estimates suggest that about 40 million are engaged in fishing, with only 15% being women. Further research and data collection are necessary to set a benchmark or baseline of the current situation. But women play an important role in small scale fisheries in developing countries, often making up the majority of the people involved. 

Speakers also emphasized the need to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. This has to include a bottom up approach, including and involving the women at the shore side part of the fisheries supply chain. Further work is needed, to build partnerships, to achieve greater inter-agency collaboration between IMO-FAO-ILO to improve visibility and recognition of women in the fisheries sector and to support the organization of women in fisheries into networks. Also speaking at the event were: Jane Njeri Grytten, General Manager, Pweza Fishing Operations Management Ltd, Kenya; Maria del Mar Saez Torres of the Spanish Network of Women in the Fisheries Sector (REMSP); Alicia Mosteiro Cabanelas, Fisheries Officer, FAO (Moderator); Christine Bader, ILO; and Helen Buni, IMO (Facilitator). 

The event was organized by IMO and the Government of Spain and sponsored by The Ministry of Transport of the People's Republic of China. Click for photos.

 Joint FAO/ILO/IMO Working Group on IUU Fishing (23-25 October)

The Conference was followed by the fourth session of the Joint FAO/ILO/IMO Working Group (JWG) on IUU Fishing, held from 23 to 25 October 2019. The JWG was established as a result of the call made by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, which met in April 1999, highlighting the issue of flag and port State responsibilities and the need for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and IMO to cooperate on solving problems relating to IUU fishing.

 Why the Cape Town Agreement is needed

Fishing is one of the most dangerous professions in the world. It is estimated that thousands of fishers lose their lives every year. IMO has been working for many years, alongside other stakeholders, to enhance fishing vessel safety – and save lives at sea. This work also contributes to the battle against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. 

But the key IMO treaty covering fishing vessel safety is not yet in force. The lack of an international mandatory regime makes it harder for effective control and monitoring of fishing vessel safety standards. 

The 2012 Cape Town Agreement is an internationally-binding instrument which will provide that regime. The  Agreement includes mandatory international requirements for stability and associated seaworthiness, machinery and electrical installations, life-saving appliances, communications equipment and fire protection, as well as fishing vessel construction. 

The 2012 Cape Town Agreement is aimed at facilitating better control of fishing vessel safety by flag, port and coastal States. It is also expected to contribute to the fight against IUU fishing.

The treaty will enter into force 12 months after at least 22 States, with an aggregate 3,600 fishing vessels of 24 m in length and over operating on the high seas have expressed their consent to be bound by it.

To date (October 2019), 13 countries have ratified the Cape Town Agreement: Belgium, Congo, Cook Islands, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa and Spain.

Read more here.

 Is there a link between safe fishing and the UN SDGS?

​​Yes. Ensuring safe and sustainable fishing is clearly linked with the achievement of the targets of UN SDG 14 on the oceans. 

There are also clear links with other UN SDGs, including those relating to poverty, hunger, education and training, infrastructure and partnerships. 

Download the fact sheet on the Cape Town Agreement and the SDGs

Seafood is a highly-sought after and nutritious meal for millions of people across the world - and an essential food protein in many developing countries.